Central Community College of Nebraska is putting students of all ages on a path to good-paying jobs in the state’s growing clean-energy sector.
Taylor Schneider is the energy technology instructor at the school’s Hastings campus. He said students receive valuable hands on experience in the latest solar, wind and battery-storage technologies.
They also get to climb a wind turbine tower that generates the school’s electricity.
“Instead of instructor, you know, just ‘death by PowerPoint,’ so to speak, my students are getting that full experience.” said Schneider. “Everybody that’s graduated so far has all been placed in jobs, whether it be in the wind field or in the solar-energy field.”
Schneider said wind sits at number two, with solar coming in at number five, on a list of the nation’s fastest growing occupations projected for this decade.
In 2021, wind technicians brought home a median annual income of just over $52,000 per year. CCC offers one-year certificate programs, and a two-year associate’s degree in energy technology.
Schneider said people with certificates or degrees have a big hand up compared with other applicants for jobs ranging from public policy to field technicians and engineers. Schneider explained that engineers get to be a part of the design process from the ground up.
“They can sit right next to that project manager and be like, ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to lay down our entire project,'” said Schneider. “‘If we have 80 towers, this is where all these towers are going to be placed, and how components are going to be laid down, so we can get these erected in a timely fashion.'”
Six in ten Nebraskans are worried about climate change, according to a Yale University analysis, and 50% say they want their governor, local officials and Congress to do more to mitigate the impacts of a warming planet.
Kevin Taylor – the leader of the U.S. Climate Action program at the World Wildlife Fund – said the work being done at CCC reminds him of the old adage, “Out of crisis comes opportunity.”
“In the transition we make away from fossil fuel to renewable energy,” said Taylor, “away from internal-combustion engines to electric vehicles, and the electrification of everything, it’s just an amazing time for young people to get involved in this space.”