While watching YouTube recently, an ad popped up at the bottom of the video. My immediate reaction was to hit the “X” and get back to Julian Edelman’s ridiculous Super Bowl catch.
But I didn’t. The ad that caught my eye was about the school I go to: Ecotech Institute — “Enroll today for a better tomorrow.” The double meaning behind the slogan was even more apparent to me now. I am pursuing a degree from Ecotech Institute because I was looking for a school that would lead me to a career in wind energy.
I wanted to work with renewable energy. I wanted to contribute to a world that didn’t run itself dry.
Becoming a wind tech would teach me about how the wind and wind turbines work while getting a paycheck I could count on. Since I was 22 at the time, I knew no one in the industry, and being a wind tech would put me in contact with knowledgeable people.
I am only a few terms in at Ecotech Institute, and I actually have been to NextEra Energy’s massive 600 MW wind farm in Limon and the National Renewable Energy Lab, and I have met great people in the wind industry such as Auston Van Slyke and Walter Christmas.
It was an invaluable experience to see the Limon wind farm and talk to Nick Rohr, Jared Smith, and the guys operating the power plant, and to hear they had gotten there through schools like Redstone’s wind program (now closed) and Ecotech Institute.
Every generation faces a drastically different career landscape than their parents faced. According to Forbes (2015), the generation after millennials makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population, larger than the baby boomers or millennials. My own journey through education and career training reflects much of the unexpected challenges facing my generation, often unoriginally referred to as “post-millennials” or “Generation Z.” We are the newest generation to enter the workforce, and we will have a major impact on all industries, including wind energy.
After high school, I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. During my third year, I was delighted when the school started a sustainability minor.
I thought all the classes would include hands-on learning, and it would apply to the campus around us. However, the professors imagined it as a sustainability-minded deviation from their specialties. All I saw was talking and reading with no action.
I signed up for the minor, but I didn’t take it. I didn’t even finish that year of school. I needed to find something that was going to sustain me. I took a year off. Meanwhile I researched the state of the world, jobs, and renewable energy.
It was hard to ignore the projection the Bureau of Labor and Statistics had for wind-turbine technicians: fastest growing job in America. Here was a job where I could actually do something to help our planet breathe easier. I also knew I would be able to get a job after my studies. I have friends who graduated with teaching degrees and struggled to get hired. It wasn’t that they slacked off or were bad students; there just weren’t any jobs.
But if I became a wind tech, I knew a job would be waiting for me.
Strong majorities of Generation Z see improving the Earth as a priority, and they confidently see renewable energy as a step toward a healthier planet and an improved lifestyle.
I graduate at the end of the year, and the other half of Ecotech Institute’s “enroll today for a better tomorrow” has become even clearer to me. It’s not just a better tomorrow for me and the environment, it’s a better tomorrow for the wind industry, too.