Northern Lights College Sends Students to Great Heights

NLC’s Wind Turbine Maintenance program is the first in B.C.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world, with Canada ranking seventh in the world for total fitted wind energy capacity. 

Despite the increasing role that wind energy will be playing in B.C.’s energy sector in the years to come there are very few institutions across the country that offer training. In fact, Northern Lights College (NLC) is the only school in B.C. to offer the Wind Turbine Maintenance Technician program.

“We started our program in 2010 (at its Dawson Creek Campus), and since then we have seen the demand grow every year,” says the college’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeships, Mark Heartt.

NLC’s Wind Turbine Maintenance Technician program is certified and recognized by BZEE—a European-based certification body. Upon completion, NLC graduates can apply to obtain their BZEE certification, which allows them to work anywhere in the world. This places NLC students at the forefront of a global alternative energy movement.

“As wind turbines age they need more maintenance, therefore the demand for trained technicians will continue to be strong,” adds Heartt.

During the intensive 40-week program, students explore the theory supporting wind turbines and the practical maintenance procedures required to maintain turbine output. In addition, they undergo training on the college’s 100-foot wind turbine tower simulator, which helps students to become accustomed to working at heights of between 275 and 300 feet.

“We also train them on the descender. It’s an escape and rescue safety piece of equipment used for emergencies, such as fire or other evacuation situations,” Heartt explains, adding the students graduate with their Level 1 electrical and millwright accreditations.

Because of the rapid growth of the wind energy industry, there are also many technician jobs out there for new wind turbine construction. Currently, the province has four operating wind farms, including the Bear Mountain Wind project near Dawson Creek and the Quality Wind project near Tumbler Ridge.

“This is a great time to get into a burgeoning industry; one that pays well and offers plenty of opportunities,” says Heartt, adding that because NLC is on the border of Alberta, the students are finding many job prospects there as well.