Growing Wind Industry Great, But Have to Grow a Workforce

Jan. 19, 2009

Audio with Jimmy Bricker, Purdue Extension Director in Benton County, Indiana (MP3 727 KB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:01:32.

No other Indiana Ag Extension Director is quite as involved in wind energy as Jimmy Bricker in Benton County. Nearly 650 wind turbines are approved and under construction in his county. Due to the jobs that kind of development creates, Bricker says education is key. That's why he's working wind into several activities — including 4-H and FFA — and is also working with schools to ensure a workforce for the booming wind industry.

"I'm working with our community college, Ivy Tech, and this fall we put an industrial certification program into our high school. And that was trying to fill that employment gap that we have for the existing wind turbine companies or wind farms we have. We also started this fall the first courses for our two-year associate's degree at Ivy Tech. That's to have some qualified employees, prospective employees, for Vestas Turbines in 2010 when they graduate with an associate's degree. Then some of those associate degrees can move into Purdue engineering program."

While Bricker's wind energy outreach effort isn't directly tied to the Energy Center at Purdue, Bricker says he does work closely with the Center on a variety of things.

"We've hosted visitors from Sandia, we've done quite a few things with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So it's kind of been just an informal collaboration that has continued to grow."

And as the excitement for wind keeps growing in the state and around the country, Bricker says all these efforts will grow in importance.