November 2009

Members Go Online In Search of New Skills
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With hundreds of thousands of potential new jobs coming to the energy sector over the next two decades, IBEW members and other workers have discovered a high-tech way to get new, specialized training. More and more of them are turning to online programs that let them learn a trade without ever leaving home.

"We are already experiencing a lot of growth," said Joan Kleven, a lead advisor at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, where students can choose from six online energy programs.

The college's National Energy Center of Excellence offered the nation's first training program for power plant workers back in 1976. It has grown steadily ever since, with enrollment jumping 25 percent from 2007 to 2008.

"This industry is sustainable. It's not going away," Kleven said. "We're preparing people to fill jobs at a time when that's really needed."

Students earn associate's degrees or program certificates in the areas of electrical power technology, electrical transmission systems, nuclear power technology, power plant technology or process plant technology. The associate's degree takes about two years to complete. Certification programs can be finished in as little as seven months.

The college also offers an online bachelor's degree program in energy management, designed for current power workers who want to pursue supervisory or management positions.

"This kind of training really gives the opportunity to advance the skills we use in our trade," said David Poklinkoski, business manager of Madison, Wis., Local 2304, one of several locals whose members have taken online courses offered by the college.

"It's a great way for our members to get qualified for other jobs in the utility industry as it transitions over the next decade," Poklinkoski said.
Complete information about the online energy education program at Bismarck State College is available at

A student at Bismarck State College demonstrates the school’s online utility training program.