Wind Catcher Energy Connection project partners, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), Invenergy, and GE Renewable Energy, have announced a partnership with High Plains Technology Center (HPTC) and Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU), which will equip students for jobs in the wind-energy sector –pending regulatory approval of the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection.
The partnership is set to provide $200,000 in total scholarships as well as state-of-the-art training equipment and programming for students.
Through this commitment, HPTC will expand and modernize its existing wind-technician training program in Woodward, including doubling student enrollment. OPSU and HPTC also intend to work together so that OPSU students can earn credit hours toward their associate degree by completing the wind-tech certification program at HPTC.
PSO and Invenergy are jointly contributing the $200,000 in scholarship funding, which will cover half of all tuition costs for individual students to complete the HPTC wind-certification program.
“The Wind Catcher project isn’t just about harnessing Oklahoma’s rich energy resources, it’s about creating family-sustaining job opportunities for Oklahomans,” said Stuart Solomon, President of PSO. “This partnership with High Plains Technology Center and Oklahoma Panhandle State University will create a jobs-ready workforce to continue Oklahoma’s energy leadership long into the future.”
GE Renewable Energy will donate and install equipment at HPTC’s training facility, including a GE turbine hub and machine head, to prepare future wind energy technicians through hands-on lab experience. Additionally, GE’s Renewable Energy Learning Center (RELC) will partner with HPTC to provide additional training sessions for local instructors to deepen their knowledge base.
Patricia Popp-Stanton, spokesperson for GE’s RELC team, said, “GE is very excited to partner with Invenergy and High Plains Technology Center to enhance their training program and prepare wind technicians to support the Wind Catcher site. Our team will work with each of the organizations involved to ensure this program delivers on its promise to benefit all Oklahomans.”
Wind technician is the second-fastest growing occupation in the United States, and local students and veterans certified as wind technicians through the program will be eligible for hiring opportunities at the Wind Catcher wind farm, which is currently under construction. This program will enhance HPTC’s role as part of Oklahoma’s CareerTech system of career and technology education centers that contribute to economic development across the state.
“This announcement demonstrates one of the many opportunities Wind Catcher and the wind industry in general create for our region,” said Oklahoma State Representative, Casey Murdock. “The training and scholarship program will strengthen our work force and prepare students for high quality jobs close to home. I’m proud to see the Wind Catcher partners, HPTC and OPSU working together to make this happen.”
“I graduated from the HPTC wind program, and I am extremely grateful for what the people and training at High Plains brought me,” said Ike McVicker, HPTC graduate and Site Manager at NRG’s Sleeping Bear/Buffalo Wind facility. “From troubleshooting complex electrical issues, to hands-on mechanical and hydraulic systems, their training covers it all. It’s amazing to have a job in an industry I love, and to be in a position now where I’m the one hiring technicians.”