Northeastern Junior College located in Sterling, Colorado has been training wind technicians since 2009 and is leading the way in wind industry learning. Northeastern’s wind program is continuing to grow and advance the training to match the changing wind industry. The college has a strong relationship with industry partners and meets with them regularly to discuss and improve the program to meet the needs of the industry. Northeastern’s wind program is result driven. In the last two years Northeastern has maintained a 96% placement rate, these students are going to O&M sites and not temporary placement agencies. What is even more impressive is that once the Northeastern students get jobs they retain those jobs and put themselves into positions to succeed with their employer.
Northeastern’s wind department consists of two instructors, Jason Hazlet and Jim Lenzen, both former wind technicians with a combined seven years field experience in both technical and managerial work. The instructors are dedicated to building the best technicians in the industry by bringing a strong work ethic and maintaining high expectations of themselves and their learners. When a new student chooses the Northeastern wind program he or she is making a decision to enter a program that will take dedication and focus on their part to be successful. Expectations are spelled out to the new student the first time instructors meet with them and re-emphasized throughout the two years they are at Northeastern.
Student Focused Learning
With only 22 students allowed per class, Northeastern is giving each student the unique opportunity to have valued one on one instructor time. The small class size is what allows Northeastern to advance their students so much further than other programs. As the students move into the industry they are expected to be able to step up and contribute for their new employer beginning day one.
The end reward for the student is getting and keeping a job in the industry. Jim Lenzen said, “We talk about this daily and we treat every day in the program as if the students were on the job, we hold our students accountable not only for grades but being on time and coming in ready to work each and every day.”
“Our philosophy is simple,” Lenzen notes. “Do the right thing on and off the work site, build a strong safety culture, and hold each other accountable. We take great pride in the safety culture at Northeastern and understand that it has to be demonstrated and practiced by everyone daily so it becomes habit forming.” Lenzen notes that Northeastern’s students are willing to hold their peers and instructors accountable and pass this mindset to the work site on day one. Safety should be the number one priority for both employee and employer. Inconsistency in safety practices end up injuring employees and costing employers money. “When our students graduate we can honestly say they believe that safety is the most important part of every day at home or at work.”
The Associate of Applied Science in Wind Energy Technology degree was created with the help of an advisory committee that consists of wind industry, utility, and Department of Labor representatives. The foundation consists of electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic fundamentals that allow students to understand, maintain, and repair a variety of systems found in a wind turbine. Students spend three quarters of their time in lab where they can get their hands on the equipment and tools and apply what they are learning. Electricity fundamentals are among the first courses taken by the students. Each successive semester builds on this knowledge. Students will progress into motors and controls, PLC applications and programing, hydraulics, and electrical troubleshooting. Students learn to understand, read, and use a variety of electrical and hydraulic schematics easing the transition into the life of an everyday technician.
Excellent Training Facilities
Northeastern has both built and purchased trainers and simulators. This allows instructors the flexibility to duplicate the various operating systems that the students will see in the field. Most trainers are PLC controlled and combine both relay logic and solid state components. Sophomore students help build and design trainers and then later use them for advanced electrical troubleshooting classes.
One of the biggest drawing cards to Northeastern is its location. The campus is located in Northeastern Colorado, surrounded by 11 different wind companies operating over 1000 MW within a 100 hundred mile radius. A member of each of these companies sits on the advisory committee and supports continued improvements to the wind program.
Northeastern is a residential college. Students have the option to stay in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria. This can reduce stress on younger students who don’t want to worry about maintaining an apartment or house while attending college. Northeastern offers the small university experience without the large costs. Northeastern has the lowest cost and best value out of all the wind training programs offered in Colorado.