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Consumer Spotlight: Training the next generation of energy workers

At our community events throughout Minnesota, CUB has been talking about how the energy system will be changing in the coming years.  We want to give energy customers an idea of how they may be impacted.   Another perspective to explore is how these changes will impact the people working in the energy system.  Will our energy workers have the right skills to manage these changes?  We recently had an interesting conversation with Kevin Maki, a northeastern Minnesota resident, who is training the next generation of energy workers.

Kevin Maki is an electrical engineer. After working in industry for 30 years, he decided to go back to school to teach in the electric field at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community  College in Cloquet, MN.  Kevin talked with CUB about the importance of making sure students have the skills and knowledge to work in a changing energy field.

Fond du Lac offers a variety of tracks in the electric field ranging from a degree program as an electric utility technician to training in energy auditing and an alternative energy program. The electric utility tech degree is a very focused track that trains students for careers with a utility doing substation relay work. Fond du Lac also has an electric technician program that prepares students to work in a variety of fields including railroads and large industry. Many students also go on to work as  energy auditors or work in the clean energy field.

Changes in the energy sector has impacted what these students are learning. Alternative energy sources such as solar energy, both utility scale and personal installations, are becoming much more prevalent. According to Maki, it is important for electricians and technicians to have training in solar and an understanding of the clean energy field because it is expanding so rapidly.

Not only are jobs expanding in the clean energy field, Maki also sees jobs expanding around home energy management. There are a lot of easy or obvious things that homeowners can do to save money in their homes such as sealing air leaks. But new technologies and programs are going to expand what is possible and Maki sees a whole field of jobs for managing homes more efficiently.

One example is the growth of time-of-day rates that will come online. There are going to be a lot of new options for customers and Maki stresses the importance of not underestimating the customer’s ability to take advantage of these new options and the students of today will be integral in working with customers in this transition.

To grasp how quickly things are changing in the electric sector, Maki said to look and see what has changed in the past 10 years and to double that over the next 10. All this change has taken place in a very short amount of time. The electric sector itself has not been around long in historical terms. With humanity on only its third generation of electricians, Maki stresses the importance of training the next generation to tackle these challenges. We at CUB are excited to see the students of today help our state tackle these challenges.

Author: Ben Bratrud

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