Empowering students, powering a green energy future

Fanshawe College’s Renewable Energies Technician program bridges the gap to a growing industry

As an engineering graduate, Mira Kim already had the ring.

And after her time at Fanshawe College, her career preparation has come full circle.

Kim recently completed her studies in the Renewable Energies Technician diploma program at Fanshawe College’s St. Thomas/Elgin Regional Campus in southwest Ontario, after earning a mechanical engineering degree at Western University.

She’s not just ready to enter the renewable energy industry workforce—she’s already taken that step, having been hired by a Toronto startup company providing aerial thermal imaging for wind and solar energy systems.

“I chose this program at Fanshawe because it bridged a gap for me,” says Kim, 32, a recipient of the first Enbridge Renewable Energies Scholarship in April. “It gave me a lot of the knowledge of renewable electrical systems that wasn’t offered in mechanical engineering, and it was an accelerated program that would get me quickly into the job market.

“In the second semester, I actually had companies coming to talk to me about job opportunities.”

Since Fanshawe College introduced the Renewable Energies Technician program in fall of 2012, graduates have enjoyed a nearly 100-per-cent placement rate in the industry—and, with class intake sizes now exceeding 40 students, the college expects to have a waiting list for the first time this fall.

The two-year diploma program is offered on an accelerated 50-week timetable, with every theory lesson including a practical component and a curriculum that’s designed to get students on the job faster.

It’s “not a flavor of the month career . . . it’s a growing industry, with an already large inventory (of facilities) on the ground,” notes St. Thomas/Elgin Regional Campus chair Ross Fair. And for many students like Kim, it offers the perfect yang to an engineering degree’s yin.

The college’s Renewable Energy Technician program:

  • conveys foundational knowledge in electrical, electronic and mechanical systems;
  • ·offers design and installation techniques for solar photovoltaic, wind, biogas and solar thermal systems;
  • equips students with complete safety training for working at heights, advanced electrical safety, lockout-tagout and confined spaces; and
  • furnishes students with an in-depth working knowledge of commissioning, routine maintenance and repair of photovoltaic and wind turbine generating systems.

“Fifty percent of this program is spent in the lab or the workshop, and we’re blessed with up-to-date equipment and software—traditional areas like motor control, mechanical training and Programmable Logic Controllers, as well as advanced wind-turbine simulators,” says program professor Bruno Castellani.

Enbridge is one of the largest renewable energy companies in Canada. Since 2002, we’ve committed $7.4 billion in capital to renewable energy and power transmission projects currently in operation or under construction—projects that have the capacity to generate more than 3,800 megawatts (MW) gross of zero-emission energy—and our portfolio of renewable energy projects is diversified and growing.

In Ontario, we own the Greenwich, Talbot and Underwood and Cruikshank wind farms, and three solar projects in Sarnia, Tilbury and Amhestburg.

In April, Kim and fellow student Justin Slim were presented with the first two Enbridge Renewable Energies Scholarships. At $3,000 each, they’re the largest scholarships offered to date at the St. Thomas/Elgin Regional Campus.

“Getting a chance at hands-on education, getting the practical elements of what you see in industry—I can’t stress enough how important that is,” says Kim.