Wind Power Ready: Atlantic City, a first-of-its-kind offshore wind training program that aims to reduces barriers to employment for members of various impacted communities, was launched Tuesday by Ørsted and partner Rowan College of South Jersey.
And it’s looking to have immediate impact.
The workforce development program, which is aiming to help women, members of Black and brown communities, and individuals that have been negatively impacted by the disproportionate effect of pollution and contamination on minority and low-income communities, is hoping to identify up to 24 candidates immediately, with applications due in early June 2023.
Accepted students will be notified by the end of June.
WPR: AC will then train and place local candidates in careers as wind farm technicians with Ørsted and other developers within the American offshore wind industry, beginning in July, with a goal of finishing in December.
Maddy Urbish, Ørsted’s head of government affairs and market strategy, New Jersey, said the initiative can have real impact.
“Wind Power Ready was custom-created to offer training, support and career opportunities for residents of Atlantic City and New Jersey who wish to become a part of the region’s green energy evolution, while earning family-sustaining incomes,” she said.
“Ørsted is committed to bringing both clean energy and economic benefits to New Jersey, while prioritizing the communities that have historically been left behind. As we prepare to use the WPR model for our other U.S. wind farms, we are delighted that Atlantic City will be home to one of the first rounds of entry-level offshore wind technicians hired here in the U.S., and the very first to be hired in New Jersey. The Ørsted team is grateful to each of the local partners who have helped to develop this program to maximize its impact for Atlantic City residents.”
The program is supported through grant funds from Ørsted, the New Jersey Wind Institute for Innovation and Training through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Atlantic Cape Community College will provide training and applicant support. The Center for Family Services will provide supportive services.
Students will be paid $15 per hour while enrolled in full-time training and connected with supportive services including transportation, child care, housing, counseling and more to help facilitate their success in training and as wind farm technicians. The program, including application fees, travel, personal protective equipment and tuition, is free to students.
Applicants must be over the age of 18, have a high school diploma or equivalent, be able to perform the physical requirements of the job and be able to travel away from home for up to two weeks at a time. Interested recruits will be required to pass a math and reading aptitude assessment during the application process. Hired entry-level wind farm technicians working on Ocean Wind 1 will receive salaries of at least $65,000 per year, plus benefits.
Urbish said Ørsted is committed to hiring at least 40% of incoming Ocean Wind 1 wind farm technicians from the pool of WPR: AC graduates in early 2024, offering a direct pathway to a potential career as a wind turbine technician, a critical role needed to support the growing offshore wind industry in the U.S. Local recruitment efforts to hire support personnel for an operations and maintenance facility currently under construction in Atlantic City will commence later this year.
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small applauded the program.
“The development of offshore wind here in the great city of Atlantic City presents opportunities on many fronts,” he said. “Education and job opportunities are two major components that I have stressed since becoming the mayor. I believe that this particular work program can supply participants with lifelong tools and success. I encourage interested residents to attend an information session to see if this program is a good fit for them.”
Rowan College of South Jersey President Frederick Keating said his school is eager to be involved.
“We are pleased to partner with Ørsted to make this program possible for South Jersey community members seeking exciting and unique job-training opportunities,” he said. “The job potential within the offshore wind industry is extensive and long-term, especially in New Jersey. We are eager to share this information with the public so we can meet with potential applicants and begin their training promptly.”
The first information sessions for interested students will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 4 at Community Baptist Church, 234 New Jersey Ave., Atlantic City. Similar recruitment events will continue throughout the month of May. More details about information sessions and the application process can be found here.
WPR: AC is the first iteration of a program that will be used as part of a national strategy for Ørsted. By using the WPR model where other entry level wind farm technicians are needed, Ørsted seeks to maximize opportunities for priority communities to be hired for those roles. Other wind energy companies may hire from the program graduate pool and support subsequent student cohorts.
Basic training will take place in both Atlantic City and Sewell to prepare students for the various rigors of the career. During this portion of training, recruits will undergo hands-on, classroom and experiential training, along with customized training that directly meets employer needs.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of the NJEDA, said the program is another piece of the economic benefits that come with the offshore wind industry.
“Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s leadership, New Jersey has quickly established itself as a hub of offshore wind economic development, with Atlantic City as a pivotal center for operations and maintenance activities,” he said.
“A core part of our strategy is to implement programs that recruit, educate and train local residents on the specific skills needed to grow with this industry. Wind Power Ready will do just that by providing hands-on training and support services to connect New Jerseyans to career opportunities in offshore wind.”