THE DALLES, Ore. – The Columbia Gorge Community College campus sits on a hill. In the distance you can see the John Day dam. A training tower is locked behind a fence in the middle of a grassy knoll. It’s here where students can learn how to work high up on a turbine tower.
CGCC offers training in renewable energy technology for students wanting to enter the wind industry. Many students end up working in wind farm maintenance.
Stan Loop is an instructional assistant. He previously worked in the wind industry, but didn’t like the job uncertainty. So he returned to his alma mater as an instructor. Loop said the production tax credit will likely not have much an effect on graduating students.
“Ultimately the tax credit is more about construction. It’s more about getting it up and going,” Loop said. “The people here are fully qualified to go and do construction, but what they’re really being trained for is the maintenance and the on-going work. Those jobs are not going away.”
At least not any time soon. James Pytel has taught students at CGCC for four years. Professors said they are proud of the jobs students find after graduation. But, in the next 10 to 20 years:
“If those turbine farms are not being constructed at a proper rate to establish a renewable energy infrastructure for our country, I do see a smaller number of employment opportunities, which is unfortunate,” Pytel said.
Pytel said students could also get jobs in the avionics or transmission industries. He says some students have asked him about the production tax credit, but some hope it will be figured out before they graduate.
“It’s a shame that some of these people may be caught up in some of these political game that they don’t necessarily understand – where their careers [could be] dependent upon some political decision,” Pytel said.
Pytel is a staunch supporter of wind energy. He said it’s a direction the country needs to take. He said he believes the production tax credit will be renewed.
“I think there’s no way around it,” Pytel said. “I honestly think there’s no way around it.”
Congrats to David James for his winning submission, 'Annabella smelling the Balsam.'
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