WASHINGTON — The wind power industry employs 100,000 people, more than the coal, nuclear and gas industries, but has trouble finding workers with the right technical skills, an industry official told a meeting about workforce needs in the offshore wind sector Wednesday.
“The labor intensity is quite interesting in creating jobs for the nation,” said Sebastian Mertens, Offshore Wind’s global head of service. Mertens said the coal industry employs about 80,000 workers, 60,000 workers are in nuclear and 50,000 in gas. The Department of Energy issued a report earlier this year saying slightly more than 100,000 Americans work in in the wind
But more investment is needed in courses and physical facilities for skilled positions, said Elise Korejwa, project manager at the Offshore Wind Economics Project, to meet the expected need for more skilled workers.
“A focus on skilled trades can also help attract manufacturing supply chain,” Korejwa said.
In Massachusetts, Bristol Commuity College offers a 28-credit offshore wind power technician certificate program. The SouthCoast Development Partnership at UMass Dartmouth creates partnerships within the offshore wind educational and workforce institutions in the area.
But Phillip Jordan, vice president of BW Research Partnership, said the wind industry needs to promote the job opportunities to young people so they will see the value in getting the necessary skills.
“Millenials are sort of yesterday’s news,” Jordan said. “Gen Z is the new game in town.”
Jordan cited research by The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute about what matters most to Gen Z: pay and benefits, interesting and exciting work and the opportunity for career development.
“Generation Z is similar to millenials in that they care a lot about climate change as one of their top three issues,” Jordan said. “I think that if we demonstrate those jobs and show them to young people — it may not move the needle on if they want to become construction workers but if they can couple that idea with working in the offshore wind industry, you’re going to get the talent that you need.”
While there is no federal policy in place for offshore wind use, experts believe states can initiate their own rules.
“There needs to be a policy signal that these programs need to persist and they’re here to stay,” Jordan said.