The complete guide to wind turbine apprenticeships
There are huge opportunities for careers in the wind turbine sector.
In a recent report it was estimated that the UK needs 400,000 new jobs in the energy industry in order for the country to become net zero by 2050. Net zero means that the amount of greenhouse gases produced is the same or lower than the emissions removed from the Earth’s atmosphere.
60,000 of those jobs are forecast to be required in onshore and offshore wind farms, as more and more of our electricity comes from renewable energy. So how do you become a wind turbine engineer?
Are you a machine head?
Working with wind turbines is likely to appeal to anyone who is good at fixing machinery, working at heights and outside. At Go Construct we call you a machine head! Take the personality test on our website and find out what personality type you are. This will help to give you an idea of the kind of job role you may be suited for.
What do wind turbine engineers do?
Wind turbine engineers plan, design and oversee the building of wind-generated power plants.
Amongst the duties of a wind turbine engineer are analysing the best locations for sites, researching and designing new wind farms, overseeing production programmes for new sites, managing technicians and site workers, and designing and selecting suitable equipment. You will also be carrying out cost-efficient, productive processes in line with budgets, liaising with geologists, geophysicists and specialist contractors.
Onshore and offshore wind turbines
Since the first commercial wind farm opened in the UK in 1991, onshore and offshore wind turbines have become a common sight in our landscape and off our coastline.
Onshore wind turbines are cheaper to install and easier to maintain than offshore sites. While the environmental impact on the land they are situated on is lower than other forms of energy production, they will have a visual and noise impact. The energy they produce is lower than offshore, because the wind speeds inland are more variable. When this happens, more electricity will need to be generated from other, less green energy sources.
Offshore farms are more expensive but can be much larger in scale than onshore. They are more efficient and have a reduced environmental impact because they are situated away from where people live. The energy they produce is more consistent because of higher wind speeds across the sea. Due to where they are located, offshore wind turbines can be more challenging to maintain.
What it takes to be a wind turbine technician apprentice
If you have a head for heights, like working outdoors and are never happier than when fixing machinery, you have the basic skills to be a wind turbine apprentice. Sea legs would be more than useful too, as offshore engineers spend a lot of their time in boats going to and from their sites!
Apprentices should have a keen willingness to learn, be able to work well with others and be passionate about renewable energy. If your favourite subjects are science, maths, technology, engineering and geography, that will also help.
Wind turbine apprenticeship opportunities
There are several energy companies that run wind turbine apprenticeship programmes. These are Level 3 or Advanced apprenticeships, so are open to applicants aged 16 and above with five GCSE passes.
RWE offshore wind turbine apprenticeships
RWE is one of the largest power producers in the UK, operating seven offshore wind farms. Its 3-year apprenticeship programme includes two years of classroom learning at RWE’s dedicated wind turbine training facility in North Wales, followed by a year gaining work experience at an RWE wind farm. At the end of the programme apprentices will achieve an NVQ Level 3 qualification in wind turbine operations and maintenance and a level 3 diploma in wind turbine maintenance.
Rampion offshore wind
Rampion is an offshore wind farm located 13-20 km off the Sussex coast, covering 72 km2 in total. Rampion is one of RWE’s sites, and also offers the same apprenticeship programme. The apprenticeship programme is open to new applicants every February, with entry requirements being five GCSE passes at 4/C grade, including science and maths.
Ørsted apprenticeship programme
Ørsted is the UK’s leading offshore wind provider, and runs a 3-year wind turbine technician apprenticeship programme. Apprentices spend the first year in classroom-based learning and a further two years working on Ørsted’s sites. Graduates of the programme receive a maintenance and operations engineering technician qualification, equivalent to an NVQ Level 3.
Is an apprenticeship right for you?
Your route into a career in wind energy could be via an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. You could study a subject like energy engineering, earth sciences, environmental engineering, renewable or sustainable energy.
An apprenticeship in wind turbine engineering allows you to start training for a career at an earlier age and will pay you a salary at the same time. Salaries increase for every successive year of the programmes featured above.
Finding an apprenticeship
There are lots of ways to search for apprenticeships. You could look on websites like Talentview, TotalJobs, Indeed or the Government’s apprenticeship service. You will be able to apply for apprenticeships by uploading your CV or applying directly to the employer.