Tower arrives at CGCC, vaults renewable technology training

While fear of heights is a common phobia, you won’t find too many students at the Renewable Energy Technology training program at Columbia Gorge Community College suffering from that particular challenge.

For those who aren’t sure, the college now has a surefire way to assess that. A newly purchased 25-foot climbing tower was installed at The Dalles campus in mid-July, thanks to Federal Department of Labor funds awarded to the college for the tower purchase.

With the addition of the on-campus tower and a revamping of key curriculum in the program, students planning a career in wind energy and other industrial work will now be able to practice safety procedures, harnessing skills and confined rescue techniques on campus.

“We have redesigned our wind turbine operations class, developed a new industrial safety class leading to an OSHA10 certificate, and expanded the workforce preparedness portion of the program,” said Michal Kawka, academic advisor with CGCC. “Our already well recognized RET program is getting better and better.”

For those contemplating a new career, the good news is that the RET program is still accepting applications for the fall term start.

According to Mary Kramer, career and technical education director, the new OSHA certificate training “includes several topics related to general industry work such as personal protective equipment, flammable and combustible liquids, machine guarding, lockout and tag-out procedures and more. It is broad and is relevant for most industrial-based jobs.”

CGCC’s RET program also includes hands-on and theoretical training in those processes used in wind, hydro, bio-fuel and solar generation operations.

Registration is now open and interested students should contact the program coordinators to secure one of the 40 coveted spots available for the fall term.

“The spots do fill up quickly, on a first-come, first-served basis for those who meet pre-requisites. So we advise people to complete the required preparations and paperwork as soon as possible,” said Kramer.

The program offers a nine-month certificate and a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree — both of which provide strong employment opportunities upon completion.

According to Kramer, in addition to wind-based employment, RET graduates are now finding jobs in fields including regional employers such as Insitu, Sagetech, Cloud Cap, Bonneville Power Administration and other similar industries.

Program graduates obtain skills in electronics, electronic controllers and power conveyance in addition to understanding renewable energy.

The list of wind employers seeking CGCC RET grads is long as well, including Iberdrola, Vestas, PGE, EDP Renewables, Suzlon, Siemens, enXco, Gamesa, Cannon and G.E., among others.

There are some pre-requisites that must be met to be considered for entry into the RET program and students are advised to research those quickly.

Students must test into college-level math 111 and level 121 writing. They must also take a basic computer skills test and have a minimum high school GPA of 2.5. Testing may be arranged for free through CGCC student services at either campus.

The nine-month certificate highlights learning about electrical and mechanical systems and electronics with a focus on the wind energy industry.

In the two-year pathway, students will graduate with an A.A.S. in Renewable Energy Technology with a focus that adds more digital systems training onto the first-year curriculum.

Programmable logic controllers, hydraulic systems, motor controls and courses looking at other energy systems (hydro, solar, bio-fuels) fill out the experience.

Kramer notes that although some students arrive at the RET program just out of high school, many are adults returning to school to either upgrade skills or take on a new trade. The program draws students from across the U.S.

“The RET program prepares students to succeed in the real world — with excellent connections to employers, internships, career fairs, resume assistance, professional development and networking,” Kramer concluded.

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