Energy Composites to establish wind blade worker certification program

The wind blade manufacturer will work with NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy to establish an DNV-accredited education program for technicians who manufacture wind blades.

Energy Composites Corp. (ECC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) announced on that it has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with nearby Mid-State Technical College of Wisconsin Rapids to establish the world’s first certified training program for workers engaged in the manufacture of composite blades for wind turbine systems. The training curriculum will be certified by Oslo, Norway-based Det Norske Veritas (DNV), and will be developed in concert with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Boulder, Colo.) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE).  ECC is establishing the program now in order to have a well-prepared work force in 2010 when the company plans to begin blade production in a new 350,000 ft² facility in Wisconsin Rapids. Curriculum development work and certification efforts for the program will begin immediately.

Sam Fairchild, ECC’s CEO, says, “Confident, trained employee/associates are critical to the successful roll-out of ECC’s WindFiber strategy. Our approach to making blades, where we will be harnessing advancements in materials, design, manufacturing process and blade technologies, requires employee/associates with a set of special skills.  This joint Mid-State/ECC program will be tailored to fit those requirements, not only for manufacturing done by ECC, but also for the entire wind industry.”

Fairchild adds, “Working with DNV to establish training program certification standards for the Mid-State curriculum will allow the industry to clone the certified program for use throughout the country. This will upgrade the nation’s capability to build the advanced wind blades that will drive our energy independence and security for years to come.  We also value the technical support and advice of the NREL and DoE to ensure that we deliver the highest-caliber training possible.”

Jamie Mancl, ECC’s founder and president, notes the importance of Mid-State’s contribution to ECC’s growth plans:  “Mid-State has always been a key player in the economy of Central Wisconsin and, again, the college’s leaders [are] stepping forward to create value as the underlying nature of the region’s economy transforms.  We are excited about this training approach — Wisconsin Rapids is breaking new ground in a new industry, and the Mid-State ECC program will be the first such preparatory program in the world.  Given that ECC will be hiring more than 400 new employee/associates next year under WindFiber, getting this training right is critically important.”

Ken Iwinski, head of Human Resources at ECC and the company’s general counsel, adds, “We contemplate that the Mid-State program will launch as early as second semester of the coming academic year.  That timing will deliver trained employees just in time to staff the new plant.  We will be posting soon on our Web site information about applying for the training program and applying for positions in WindFiber, so interested applicants should watch for those instructions sometime in the next several months.”
Al Javorski, dean of Mid-States' Technical and Industrial Division, underscores the college’s commitment to a successful program, noting that  “Mid-State has always tailored its curriculum to serve the changing needs of Wisconsin Rapids and the Central Wisconsin economy.  We are excited to be at the forefront of a global effort to establish a certified curriculum to meet the training requirements of the wind-related composites industry.  Our program will introduce students to the composites industry, its manufacturing processes — including mold building and preparation techniques, and the important health, safety and environmental elements associated
with composites fabrication.  As ECC and other companies introduce additional automation and innovation into the blade fabrication process, we will adjust our curriculum to match.  We look forward to working with NREL and DoE, as well as DNV, the certifying organization, to deliver a world-class result."