By Allison Thomas and Colleen Whiteside, Orion International
With 15% growth in 2010 alone, there are few industries experiencing the rapid growth of the wind power industry. In fact, this industry was responsible for 26% of all new electric generating capacity in the United States, according to a recent American Wind Energy Association report. Rapid expansion of this degree requires talented labor that can be hard to find, and many wind energy companies have found veterans to be one solution to this talent shortage.
"Regardless of the position they held in the military, veterans have several things in common -- an accelerated learning curve, the ability to 'do more with less', and a proven track record of sound decision making under the most difficult of situations," says Mike Starich, a former US Marine Corps Captain and the President of Orion International, a national military recruiting firm.
Scott Corley, a former Naval Chief Petty Officer with 24 years of service, provides perspective on how his position as a Field Service Technician for Siemens Wind Power was a logical and fulfilling next step in his career: "My career path as an Aviation Electrician, Flight Engineer, and Maintenance Manager translated very well to the wind industry. I would highly recommend veterans take a look at entering this field, as the opportunities to build a civilian career are plentiful."
Skills That Fit
The wind industry is well-suited to Enlisted Technicians, Officers, and Noncommissioned. Former Officers typically fit positions such as Site Managers, Project Managers, and Project Engineers; technicians bring strong electronics, electrical and mechanical skills to technical positions; and NCOs have a well-honed blend of technical and leadership skills. "Our clients appreciate the combination of technical skills, industry know-how, and focus on safety they get when utilizing our teams of prior military technicians," says James Haley, a former Naval Engineering Officer and Director of Operations at Gemini Energy Services, an Operations & Maintenance service provider to the wind industry.
Among the many veterans who power this industry is Mark Goldstone, a retired Wing Life Support Superintendent in the Air Force. Goldstone retired as a Senior Master Sergeant in 2005 after a 24-year career and began a new career in the wind industry as a Project Manager for an electrical contracting company, responsible for wiring a wind farm in southern Minnesota. He currently works as a Project Manager at Acciona Wind Power where he manages wind farm construction. Goldstone takes his own experience as a veteran into account when he cites skills that fit the wind industry and are inherent in veterans.
"Military people are trained to troubleshoot, fix, and maintain complex pieces of technology, following guidelines spelled out in technical orders and manuals. The wind industry is quite similar and follows much the same methodology," says Goldstone. "Another skill-set is the ability to receive a set of instructions, then work autonomously, in remote locations, a day or several days at a time." Goldstone also notes that a veteran's knowledge of logistics can be vital in the Erection and Commissioning phase of wind farm construction, as well as during the Operations and Maintenance phase.
When choosing a career path after the military, veterans often look for growth industries that are also a good match with their skill set. Randall Tyson, a nuclear-trained Machinist's Mate who served 12 years in the Navy, found the wind industry to be attractive for both of these reasons, as well as the variety of duties with which he could be tasked on any given day.
Tyson, a Wind Engineer with Terra-Gen Power, explains, "I grew up on a farm, was a diesel mechanic before the Navy, and my nuclear/mechanical training in the military all contributed to my ability to perform in my position." For veterans interested in the industry, Tyson suggests that they do their homework on what technologies are being used in the industry, and broaden their knowledge and experience as much as possible in those areas.
Goldstone adds, "I believe that within another ten years, wind will represent a large part of America's electricity generating capacity, requiring a huge number of individuals to build and maintain that infrastructure. Hopefully, many of these individuals are military veterans."
For opportunities in the wind industry as well as related occupations, search for hundreds of thousands of jobs for veterans at www.military.com/careers.
--- About Orion: Orion International is the nation's largest military placement firm, founded in 1991 by five former Military Officers. Orion finds civilian careers for Junior Military Officers, Noncommissioned Officers, and Enlisted Technicians leaving the military, as well as veterans who have already transitioned from service but are seeking a career change.
Orion provides career transition advice, resume assistance and interview preparation; and arranges interviews for positions that are a match with the veteran’s background, qualifications and desires. To learn more, please visit www.orioninternational.com.