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Lethbridge College steps on world wind-turbine stage

November 22, 2007

LETHBRIDGE COLLEGE - Lethbridge College is poised to become a world leader in wind turbine technician training.

The college announced at a Canadian Wind Energy Association conference today in Montreal it has purchased nine turbines from a local wind-energy provider that will become the core of a three-stage program it expects to eventually market worldwide.

College officials are already in talks with other Canadian institutions to share its program and the turbines to help Canada meet what the CanWEA predicts will be a significant demand in coming years. The turbines, minus the towers on which they are normally mounted, can be made transportable and shipped anywhere.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for Lethbridge College and those who wish to partner with us,” says Suzanne Flannigan, dean of the Centre for Applied Management. “This purchase opens the door to Lethbridge College to function on the international stage as a leader in wind turbine technician training.”

Lethbridge College is the only post-secondary institution in Canada approved to deliver BZEE (Bildungszentrum für Erneuerbare Energien e.V.) certified programs. BZEE is the internationally recognized German organization, formed by major wind power industry players in the country. BZEE trains instructors to teach to German specifications, the present world standard.

John Vermeer, chair of the Lethbridge College’s electrical apprenticeship program, and Mike Wehrwein, an instructor in the engineering design and drafting technology program, achieved BZEE Instructor certification earlier this year.

Lethbridge College expects to roll out the program in three stages. The first year will be devoted to establishing a southern Alberta program; the second year will focus on offering programs to other Canadian institutions; the third year would push the training programs worldwide to countries such as China.

As the program is developed, says Flannigan, it might require additional BZEE-trained instructors and faculty in other areas as demands dictate.

“We may well see an increased need for other specialties such as business and environmental sciences and these instructors would not necessarily require the BZEE certification,” says Flannigan.

Lethbridge College, in co-operation with the Chinook Educational Consortium, began a pre-employment electrician/wind turbine training program two years ago; the program has 14 students at present. The turbines will allow the college to add 16 learners next spring. During the next five years, Flannigan conservatively estimates the school will train 160 technicians and 160 more in wind-turbine-related courses.

Given the projection that Canada will ramp up to 10,000MW of installed wind energy capacity by 2015, notes the CanWEA, “the Canadian wind energy industry will need to directly employ 10,600 people. . . in such areas as mechanical trades and technologists, electrical trades, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, civil/geological engineers, and construction and installation tradesmen.”

“At the moment, there is an industry demand in Canada for nearly 3,000 wind turbine technicians over the next five years,” says Flannigan. “Jobs, too, are available worldwide.”

While an agreement precludes Lethbridge College from releasing the name of the company selling the turbines and the amount it paid, Flannigan says the firm offered the equipment at an attractive price.

“This company was most generous in the amount it sought for the turbines and, in fact, created a gift of technology with the goal of assisting Lethbridge College to get on the world stage in this field.”

For more information, contact:

Suzanne Flannigan
Dean, Centre for Applied Management
Lethbridge College
Ph: 403 393-5819

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