Chinese firm helps U.S. coal miners transition to wind energy jobs

Global Business

Chinese firm helps U.S. coal miners transition to wind energy jobs

In Rawlins, Wyoming recently, people came to hear about a career they hadn’t really considered until pretty recently.

David Halligan, the C.E.O. of China-owned Goldwind Americas, told those assembled that his company is looking for wind farm technicians and he asked if they might be interested.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

“We’re reaching out to the employment base that has these types of skills that are interested in getting into the wind industry,” said Halligan.

Wyoming Resident Jeff Taylor said he needs a job. Taylor worked in the oil industry for three decades until he was eased out of his job.

“I’m getting kind of bored,” said Taylor. “I need something that keeps me going.”

For years, coal and oil and gas have been Wyoming’s bedrock. 40 percent of U.S. coal is still produced in the state but the industry is in decline. 1,000 coal jobs have been lost here in the past few years. But now, wind energy is making its presence felt. Several large wind farms will soon be built in Wyoming.

Wind is part of Wyoming’s landscape and it could be the state’s future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of wind tech jobs in America will double in the next 7 years.

“It’s a start,” said Univ. of Wyoming’s Rod Godby. “ It’s part of a larger solution and it’s just part of economic development. A state like Wyoming can’t ignore those sorts of opportunities.”

And Goldwind needs people who’ve worked in hazardous situations, whose electrical and mechanical skills are transferable to the wind industry and who don’t mind climbing a wind turbine.

“Well, it’s probably a lot harder than my job,” said Halligan. “You have to be able to work 300 feet in the air, maybe even higher.”

He thinks fossil fuel workers could be a good fit.

“We think it’s actually pretty smart on our part because we’re going to identify the cream of the crop,” said Halligan.

“This is an exciting industry, said Taylor. “It will be a transition for people.”

Perhaps a difficult transition for some. Far from everyone in Wyoming is on board with wind.

“I mean it’s one thing to drive by the turbines, to see them,” said Godby. “Maybe you don’t like them because it upsets a view. But it’s another thing to see them as a way of life.”

The prospect of job security and a steady paycheck appeals to Wyoming resident David Kriest.

“It is the future,” said Kreist. “It’s here, it’s going to happen, might as well get on with it.”

“Getting in now, you’re getting into the ground floor,” said Halligan. “And you can ride that wave and it’s only going to get bigger.”

Goldwind Americas plans to offer two weeks of free training to eligible job candidates in the fall. Wyoming’s energy bust could turn into a boom for workers who decide to make this unusual career turn.