Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Green Jobs Series: Careers in Wind Energy [Installment 2]

In today’s green jobs series installment, we will focus on turbine production jobs in the manufacturing phase of the wind power industry. These occupations include machinists, computer-controlled machine tool operators, assemblers, welders, quality-control inspectors, and industrial production managers. The job duties, skills, and training backgrounds of these workers are similar to those of manufacturing employees in other industries.

Manufacturing—Turbine Production Jobs

Wind turbine production workers may be employed by either OEMs or third-party suppliers. Many factories manufacturing components for wind turbines are located in the Midwest, sometimes in converted auto plants. Some new production facilities are being built in Colorado and Pennsylvania—states that actively pursue the development of wind power. As more wind energy manufacturers open factories in the United States, new job opportunities will be created.

Turbine Production Workers

Job Duties

Producing turbine components that match design specifications is the responsibility of manufacturing workers. Wind companies typically hire people with experience in other industries and give them wind-specific training.

Education and Training

The type of training necessary for these production occupations varies. Many workers are trained on the job and gain expertise with experience. However, some workers in more skilled positions, such as computer-controlled machine tool operators, may be required to attend formal training programs or apprenticeships. A strong mechanical background is necessary to succeed in all of these occupations.

Many industrial production managers have a college degree in business administration, management, industrial technology, or industrial engineering. After they graduate, they usually spend a few months in corporate training, learning company policies and production methods for wind turbine components. Others become industrial production managers by working their way up through the ranks, starting as production workers and then advancing to supervisory positions before being selected for management.

Because of the relative youth of the wind energy industry, it can be difficult to find workers with a background in wind power; many turbine component manufacturers will hire almost any qualified applicants with a related technical background. Experience in the manufacture of large machines can be especially helpful. Workers from other backgrounds can be taught on the job how to apply their manufacturing skills to turbine components.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently publish earnings data specific to the wind power industry. The following tabulation, though, shows data for selected production occupations in the engine, turbine, and power transmission equipment manufacturing industry group, which includes wind turbine component manufacturing. Of course, wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Machinists $41,480
Computer-controlled machine tool operators $34,790
Assemblers $29,320
Welders $35,920
Quality-control inspectors $37,500
Industrial production managers $87,120

For more detailed information on wind turbine production occupations, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next Monday's green job series installment: Occupations in Wind Power—Construction Jobs

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