Ensuring a Solid Curriculum

Jim McGlynn, Vice Chairman of the Apprentice Training Committee

When elements of nature – like the sun or the wind—can be harnessed and converted into power, it might seem magical, but it’s not. It’s science. How components that harness the energy are installed and used, is the focus of IBEW/NECA’s Outdoor Renewable Energy Field, which celebrated it’s grand opening this year, on September 16th.

Jim McGlynn, vice chairman of the Apprenticeship Training Committee at the Institute, has worked extensively with a team of other electrical experts to introduce a unique hands-on curriculum to electrical workers, apprentices and journeymen who want to learn about renewable energy. “It is safe, clean and it’s free,” said McGlynn, who is also president and CEO of McWilliams Electric, “It doesn’t require fuel and it doesn’t require reactors.”

There is much to learn about renewable energy, according to McGlynn, and the new Field at IN-TECH is an exemplary showcase of emerging technologies, with solar panels and a wind generator to store power in batteries during the day, to be later used at night. According to McGlynn, one wind tower can generate enough power to run a small building—and in this case, the power is used to run the one area of the school that the Institute purchased years ago for classroom training. “This cuts down on costs to run the school,” said McGlynn, “and it helps Commonwealth Edison too.”

“It’s unusual is to have a site like this with hands-on raining in a field setting. We are not aware of anything like this in the country,” said McGlynn, who has visited other facilities that may have similar components but don’t have all of the elements of hands-on renewable energy training.

““Our field provides real-case scenarios for learning. For example, the climbing tower teaches the fundamentals and physical safety standards that will be required to service various technologies. The 60 foot structure, which looks like a closed silo, has three climbing ladders and a cable tray for a wind turbine. It includes full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and will allow students to learn properly climbing safety as well as what to do if someone gets injured. Additionally, the fixed solar arrays allow installation and take down on a repeat basis.”

According to McGlynn, the Apprenticeship Training Committee meets monthly to determine the cutting edge classes that will be offered to students who want to learn about renewable energy. “Our apprenticeship program is eleven weeks of daytime schooling before the apprentice can go to a job. After eleven weeks, the apprentice can begin working with a contractor. There are nine more weeks of school after that for the second and third year, and then, in the last two years, it’s mandatory to have renewable energy classes,” said McGlynn. “Renewable energy is the future.”