Merit scholarships are providing a boost to Hoosier students studying for energy sector certifications and the well-paying jobs that go with them.
Five Ivy Tech students in the college’s Energy Technology program each received a $1,000 scholarship, funded through the Indiana Energy Consortium and the Indiana Energy Association. Retirements and changes in the field of energy production are creating significant job opportunities. The groups say energy-related careers provide advantages such as high pay, great benefits and opportunity for advancement.
“We have a 100 percent placement rate. If our students do everything right, it’s a fast turnaround and they’re working within a year and a half,” explains John Roudebush, energy technology program chair for the Lafayette Ivy Tech campus. “Typically the jobs are $20 or more per hour to start.”
Roudebush says the Lafayette region was the location for Ivy Tech’s original Energy Technology program, thanks to the growth of wind farms in that area of the state. The program is now supported at several other campuses around Indiana, but not all locations focus on the same areas of concentration. He credits the ongoing shift away from fossil fuels – green energy transition – for creating the continuing need for modern certifications, and not just for recent high school graduates.
“A more diversified alternative energy portfolio includes wind, solar, some natural gas. Mostly we’re looking at replacing old power plants with newer power plants. Most of the coal plants have been shut down and so we need to re-educate that workforce and encourage individuals who may have lost their jobs to get trained in, for example, wind technology, which has a 108 percent growth rate right now.”
Ivy Tech’s Energy Technology program covers technical certificate concentration in areas such as wind and renewables, natural gas, power plants and lineman technology. Although the certifications can be highly specific, Roudebush says the school added those courses to an already-established industrial maintenance program that still serves every graduate well.
“They learn how to be electricians, they learn how to do general industrial maintenance, where they can work at any of the factories if they can’t get a job in the energy industry. The skill sets they have transfer to the concept of industrial maintenance, which is basically what a wind technician is, but they work in a tower on a generator that’s 300 feet in the air.”
Roudebush notes enrollment rates in the Energy Technology programs can vary from year to year, but that a good student can usually acquire financial assistance. The Indiana Energy Association says it’s pleased to support skills programs that were designed with input from utilities so graduates can find a good employer match.
“They can get into energy management, systems operations where they can control the grid,” offers Roudebush. “We have students that are NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) certified, and they control the transmission in power lines from the plants throughout our state. We have graduates in energy auditing, helping homes and businesses reduce their energy bills, as well as linemen coming out of this program. They’re all very good jobs.”
John Roudebush explains students’ secondary certifications in progressive technology.