The Importance of Professional Training in the Offshore Wind Industry

By Mary Kraus, Project Coordinator at UMass Amherst Clean Energy Extension

UMass Amherst graduate student Dugan Becker has his eye on the offshore wind industry for his first job out of college.

“It’s clear to me that Offshore Wind is the future, and I want to be a part of it,” Becker said recently. And Becker’s not alone.

With offshore wind (OSW) in the U.S. set to expand rapidly, interested professionals see an opportunity to be involved in this engaging and meaningful new area – but how will they receive the training they need to be as effective as possible in this complex field?

OSW Workforce Needs are Expanding

The current Massachusetts mandate for 3,200 MW of OSW by 2035 will have a significant impact on job creation. According to the 2018 Massachusetts Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment, produced by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the previous mandate of 1,600 MW by 2027 was already on track to create 2,000 to 3,000 direct job-years over the next decade (with one job-year representing one full-time job for one year). While the study anticipated substantial workforce needs in the trades – from steel workers and electricians to machine maintenance and water transportation workers – it also outlined a range of professional jobs. In the planning and development phase, these include:

  • Engineering
  • Surveying and Monitoring
  • Finance
  • Permitting
  • Legal
  • PR and Marketing

Positions needed in the construction and O&M phase include project engineers, construction managers, and site/plant managers. The MassCEC study focused specifically on Massachusetts but, of course, OSW is growing in all coastal states as the relevance and opportunity provided by this key clean energy sector is more widely embraced.

Training for Professionals is a Missing Link

A number of training programs are available for the skilled trades involved in OSW that cover crucial life safety issues specific to heights and working in the maritime environment. However, training programs for professionals have been less common. At the University of Massachusetts Clean Energy Extension (UMass CEE), we surveyed industry professionals in the winter of 2019-2020 to assess the demand for just such a program. Responses showed a high level of interest for professional training in OSW, with half of the respondents indicating that an interdisciplinary offshore wind program serving professionals from various fields was very much needed. Interestingly, over 90% of respondents noted that the timing for such a program was ripe or even overdue. As one respondent summed it up, this kind of program was “timely and necessary.”

Training Programs Come to the Rescue

Having confirmed the value and relevance of professional OSW training, UMass CEE moved forward with launching a three-course, one-year Offshore Wind Professional Certificate Program in the fall of 2020, with critical support from within UMass Amherst and the MassCEC Workforce Development program. The first course,  Technology, Resources, Grid Integration, and Trends,  was a success, with industry speakers rounding out coursework and providing students with valuable industry contacts and insights. The second course, Environmental Impacts, Siting, Permitting, and Stakeholder Engagement, begins the first week of February 2021. Graduate student Dugan Becker eagerly enrolled in the Certificate Program this past fall, and views it as a valuable step towards accomplishing his future career goals.

“My experience with the program so far has been great, and I’m confident that the skills and knowledge I’m obtaining will give me a competitive edge when I start applying to jobs in the industry,” Becker said.

MassCEC has made more than a dozen additional awards in the past two years supporting development of the Massachusetts OSW workforce. UMass CEE is profoundly grateful to MassCEC, NECEC, and other state and regional agencies and organizations working to move OSW forward in the state and region. With all of us pulling together, OSW will take its place as an essential strategy toward achieving our carbon reduction goals and a bright, clean, affordable, and equitable energy future!

There's still time to register for UMass CEE's Offshore Wind Professional Certificate program’s Spring 2021 online course! Jumpstart your career in offshore wind by gaining industry skills, knowledge, and connections.


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