Alternative Energy Training for Laid Off Oil & Gas Workers

by Duane Nichols on December 30, 2018

Working Families supports alternative energy jobs

‘Oil and gas used to be our bread and butter, but it isn’t anymore’

This Article from CBC News, The Canadian Press, December 22, 2017

The winds of change are pushing Mark Kokas in a new career direction. Nearly two years after being laid off as an electrician in Alberta’s flailing oil and gas sector, the 42-year-old is training to become a wind turbine technician.

“It is tough to find work right now. It’s not like it was before,” said Kokas in a class at Lethbridge College, one of two institutions in Western Canada that offers training and the only one with a one-year certificate program.

“Oil and gas used to be our bread and butter, but it isn’t anymore. There’s going to be a really hard push now to get people trained where the industry wants them to be,” he said. “It’s been an eye-opener going into a different industry. There’s more than oil and gas. It’s pretty cool.”

Inside the training tower used by the Lethbridge College Wind Turbine Technician program. The program warns potential students, “Those afraid of heights need not apply.” The one-year course to become a wind turbine technician comes with a warning label on the college website: “Those afraid of heights need not apply.”

“Most don’t have a warning label. We do. Our students end up working in an office 300 feet in the air, so obviously safety is a big priority,” said instructor Chris DeLisle. “We need to make sure you’re not scared of heights.”

DeLisle said that with the downturn in the oil and gas sector, alternative energy sources such as wind are a natural fit for many who are laid off. About four out of the 16 people in his class have worked in the oil sector in some capacity, he said. “With Alberta looking to kind of lead the rest of the country now into renewable energy, wind is … at the forefront, so it’s going to be around for a while.”

Instructor Chris DeLisle works with student Mark Kokas on a simulator during a class. Kokas was laid off nearly two years ago from his job as an electrician in Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Wind power is eliciting optimism at a time when Canada is trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

With their giant 80-metre-high turbines stretching as far as the eye can see and 45-metre-long blades turning gracefully in the breeze, wind farms in areas including southern Alberta are becoming more common.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association estimates that if Alberta were to use wind energy to fulfil a commitment to add 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2030, it would generate $8.3 billion in investment along with employment.

“I only wish I was laid off earlier, so I could have started earlier and I could already be working,” said Kokas. “There shouldn’t be an issue of getting a job at the end of this class.”

DeLisle said the course includes a lot of electrical training, as well as how to repair fibreglass windmill blades and learning the inner workings of the turbine itself.

Student Ryan Hanna, pictured with class dummy Rescue Randy, checks his safety equipment during a class at the Lethbridge College Wind Turbine Technician program. It also involves plenty of safety work using a life-sized dummy that DeLisle calls Rescue Randy. “Yeah, that’s one of our former students that didn’t make it through the program,” he said with a laugh. “We use him for all the different rescue scenarios. If somebody was to get hurt inside the hub, they need to bring them out and bring them to the ground. It’s a mock-up for rescues.”

Oscar Diaz-Kennedy has spent the last few years landscaping and working on construction projects. At 24, he said he can see which way the wind is blowing. “I’ve just seen how the world is going and how Alberta is changing from oilfields going to renewable energy,” Diaz-Kennedy said. “I decided I wanted to be ahead of the loop a little bit.”


WV — JOBS, JOBS, JOBS — Panel Presentation on Renewable Energy & Jobs

Working Families — West Virginia — Thursday, January 3rd, 6:00 PM
Location: Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 152, 100 Richard Avenue, Morgantown

Panel Members — Evan Hansen, Delegate – Elect, WV Legislature
>> Doyle Tenney, DT Solar LLC, French Creek, WV
>> Shane Ferguson, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Evan Hansen January 10, 2019 at 10:51 pm

Update from Delegate Evan Hansen, Monongalia County, WV

The session is officially underway! Yesterday was the first day of the legislative session, and I was pleased to see a familiar face seated right beside me in the House Chamber.

Now that we’re sworn in, orientation is over, and the Governor has given his State of the State Address, it’s time to get to work. I wanted to send you a quick update on a few of my legislative priorities:

Roads. A legislative audit released this week confirmed that road funds allocated to Mon County aren’t being spent on core maintenance. I’m working with delegates on both sides of the aisle to form a North Central West Virginia Legislative Roads Caucus. The Caucus will allow us to speak with one voice to make sure we get our fair share of funding and that the money is actually spent maintaining our roads.

Public Education. We expect bills for additional raises for teachers and service personnel and for funds to shore up PEIA. I’m committed to increasing salaries and to finding a long-term fix for PEIA.

Jobs and Economic Diversification. Following up on last week’s panel discussion in Morgantown, I’ll soon introduce a bill that allows large electricity users to purchase solar electricity generated on former coal mines. This will help manufacturers protect jobs and will attract corporations with renewable energy targets to West Virginia.

I’m excited to get to work for the people of Mon County and West Virginia! I’ll continue to send a few updates via email, but you can also follow my Facebook page for more frequent updates.

Please stay in touch during the session and visit me in Charleston. I’m in room R-150, and you can reach me at (304) 340-3125 or

Best Regards!

Hansen for House, January 10, 2019


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