As the wind industry continues to grow, the diversity among qualified technicians also grows. At Northwest Renewable Energy Institute, we train and prepare all kinds of students for their future careers as wind turbine technicians.
Did you know that women only make up roughly 25% of the wind energy workforce? A 2019 NREL report shows that, in 2019, women only made up 25% of the wind energy workforce; 13% of those were scientists and engineers. An article published by the Office of Energy & Renewable Energy interviewed 5 women working in diverse roles within the wind industry about the path that they took to their careers.
Wind turbine technicians play an extremely vital role in contributing towards green energy and a cleaner planet. We’re here to tell you that anyone can join the movement towards a cleaner, more renewable future for the world. While the mission to save the planet is a noble one, the competitive salaries, benefits, and demand potentially make this mission all the more appealing for most.
Northwest Renewable Energy Institute wanted to share some perspective on what it’s like being a woman in the wind industry. We’d like to introduce you to one of our graduates, Kaitlin Smith! Kaitlin was excited to give some first-hand insight on her experience as a wind turbine technician.
Background About Kaitlin’s Career
At the time of this interview, Kaitlin has been working in the wind industry for 3 months at a designated wind farm. She is a site technician tasked to perform scheduled maintenance on the farm’s turbines with occasional repairs. Additionally, Kaitlin has also taken over some planning responsibilities and officer work for her site.
What are your favorite things about your job?
Kaitlin: I love the views from the top of the tower. It is fall right now so the sites are beautiful.
What are the biggest challenges to your job?
Kaitlin: Right now, I am just getting used to managing work life balance. Being away from my son all day for the first time is definitely challenging.
Being a Woman in the Wind Industry
A 2020 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) study suggested some popular barriers to women interested in the wind industry. According to this survey, the main two barriers for women entering the field revolve around perceptions of gender roles and the persistence of certain cultural and social norms. Kaitlin combatted these barriers head-on, finding ways to turn them into her strengths and motivation to press forward.
Do you feel like being a woman in the wind industry has advantages/disadvantages?
Kaitlin: Being a woman, I am quite a bit smaller in stature than all of my co-workers. At times this can make things difficult (like greasing on the yaw deck). However, most of the time, I have found my smaller size has come in handy for crawling into tight corners and reaching into small spaces. I understand women come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s wonderful. But if you are a bit smaller, don’t let it discourage you. Let it be your strength.
What advice would you give to any women who are considering entering the wind industry?
Kaitlin: There will be many times where you feel a little lonely. I haven’t worked with a single woman since starting my position. But just remember to be the change you want to see. And try using networking online to connect with other women!
… Also, biggest piece of encouragement, if you are a mom—you can be a wonderful mom and still be a great at your job. Never let anyone make you think otherwise.
What advice would you give to women who are currently working in the wind industry?
Kaitlin: I don’t really know what dynamic other women run into in wind, but if you ever feel uncomfortable about anything, please speak up. I am so thankful for the very welcoming environment I currently work in, but I know that there were plenty of women before me who had to speak up about difficult things in order for change to happen. Don’t be afraid to speak up because there are people who will have your back.
Are there any organizations that you know of who help support women in the wind industry? Are you a member? How have they helped you and what would you like to see more of?
Kaitlin: I am not a registered member, but I keep up with Women in Renewable Energy (WISE). Before finding my position, I was always checking out their job postings. I am also a part of a women’s network in my company. I think a lot of the bigger companies have organizations like that.
Additional Thoughts, Training, Recommendations
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
Kaitlin: Something I wish I would have known starting my career is that, with the right employer, you can hold the leverage for your happiness and goals. What I mean is, you don’t have to go into your career thinking “Wow, it would be really nice if I could have x,y,z.” Go in with the mindset of, “I am an asset to this company, and I need x,y,z for this to work.” You’d be surprised how simple it is to meet your needs and wants if you just ask the question or have the conversation.
Do you feel as though Northwest Renewable Energy Institute prepared you for your career?
Kaitlin: NWREI made me feel so prepared! We got to review a lot of information in my job training, but I felt more informed. My LOTO 2 training is even a lot easier having experienced the electrical courses at NWREI.
Would you recommend your career choice to others?
Kaitlin: I would recommend a career in wind to anyone who loves working with their hands but doesn’t want the standard mechanic job. I don’t hate going to work every day because I love the environment. There are also so many opportunities not exclusively related to being a technician in wind.
Resources for Readers
We wanted to add a resource for our female readers who may be interested in a scholarship opportunity that is made possible through TransAlta. The Women in Trades 2021 scholarship has already been awarded, but if you plan carefully, the scholarship should be available for applications around May 2022.
Additionally, NWREI offers and accepts various scholarships for all who qualify. For more information about our scholarships, please see our Scholarship Page.
Becoming a wind turbine technician requires some preparation, hard work, and guidance. For this reason, Northwest Renewable Energy Institute offers a 6-month program designed to train and prepare motivated students. Our curriculum covers the areas necessary to become a wind turbine technician. Additionally, our Career Services department works very hard to assist NWREI graduates and students by offering Career Placement Assistance. If you’d like to learn more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out by filling out the form on this page.