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Wind companies find what they like in Iowa Lakes students

By Staff | Mar 9, 2011

Amber Pesek, site manager for Outland Renewable Energy, told Iowa Lakes wind students what opportunities Outland has currently. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Representatives from every major wind energy company in the country were on hand Wednesday to meet with the best and the brightest in the industry at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville.

Students in the college wind energy and turbine technology program met with employers at the renewable energy class building. Employers were looking for both interns and permanent employees.

Mechanical ability, willingness to travel and a good work ethic were among the characteristics employers were seeking – and they found them in abundant supply.

Amber Pesek, Outland Renewable Energy human resources manager, said Outland is focusing on hiring graduates from the two-year program rather than interns right now.

Also on hand was Dave Dirksen, operations manager of enXco. Dirksen was looking for people to fill spots at the Pomeroy Wind Farm near Fonda.

Ian Link of Okoboji hands a resume to Dave Dirksen, enXco operations manager, at the job fair held Wednesday for Iowa Lakes wind energy students. Link had several years maintaining missile guidance systems in the U.S. Navy and working as a motorcycle mechanic before entering the wind energy and turbine technology program at Iowa Lakes. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Dirksen said wind technicians would service turbines twice yearly and preferably have mechanical, electrical and troubleshooting skills.

“As they grow with us, they can do anything,” Dirksen said, saying technicians could expect to start at $16 to $18 an hour.

“It’s been pretty good for me,” said Terry Nading, a wind energy student from Marathon. “I’ve made several contacts. I’m feeling like I’ve got a pretty decent shot at two to three internships.”

Nading said he wasn’t so much concerned about pay as the experience he could get from an internship.

Tom Brazina, Vestas site manager, was looking for two interns as well as permanent employees Wednesday for the Vestas 120-unit Hampton farm.

Wind companies like people with mechanical and electrical backgrounds. Ian Link of Arnolds Park did a tour with the Navy where he maintained missile guidance systems. After that, he went to school to learn motorcycle repair and spent several years working as a mechanic in Harley Davidson shops in California and Rapid City, S.D. And all that was before he decided to enroll in the wind program at Iowa Lakes.

Not all the wind students are what one would consider traditional trade students coming right out of high school.

Karl Swanson, who graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor of fine arts in sculpture plus a Chinese major, taught English in China for four years before he decided to check out the wind energy and turbine technology program at Iowa Lakes. Swanson said he would be interested in taking a job either stateside or in China – talk about a willingness to relocate.

After an interview with Siemens, Swanson was starting to think of working out east again – way east.

So would a degree in Chinese with four years working in the country help land a job in the wind industry there?

“It definitely helps,” Swanson said.