Clean Power Success Stories: From Bartender to Wind Turbine Technician
My name is Brian Rhoads and I grew up in Upstate NY and have lived all over the country. I attended college at Rutgers University and majored in Environmental Policy. Throughout college I worked in hospitality in many forms from the kitchen to the front of the house as a waiter, bartender and in management. I had a real love for the industry and had thoughts of opening my own bar or restaurant. I came close a few times but things fell through, albeit mine or a partner’s doing. Over the years, my feelings for the industry faded and, like many in it, I felt stuck or that I had been left behind and had no substantial skills to offer in a “real world job”.
In mid 2016, I reached my breaking point and used from of my savings to go on a trip to Europe; a place I had never been and somehow felt strange going to at the age of 38. I traveled everywhere by train looking for a new career or calling. Everywhere I looked in all of these beautiful places I found wind turbines, something that had always intrigued/hypnotized me. Place after place I kept seeing them and wondered how they got there or who took care of them. The thought of learning how to build and maintain wind turbines seemed like an incredible undertaking, but I needed to find out
When I got back to the United States, I started looking into wind turbine training programs and reluctantly began bartending again. After some research, I found a great program in Kalamazoo, Michigan at KVCC. It was a hands-on environment; students actually worked on turbines using everyday tools. It was also perfect because it was an intensive program of only 6 months of training/testing. This was a great fit for me as I was approaching 40 years old and did not want to commit a lot of time to a 180 degree career change or pay for four more years of schooling. So I took the tests to get in and had a small interview and to my surprise I was accepted.
The next 6 months were intense. I learned a lot very quickly, but the environment and the teachers made it all make sense. The learning environment was ideal since it was hands-on and visual. Being able to see the tools and parts made it that much easier to wrap my head around something I had never seen or even heard of. I made some very good friends in those 6 months (the world of wind is very small). Many of us still keep in contact and go out of our way to help each other troubleshoot an issues that come up. That also goes for the teachers and the rest of the staff at the Wind Turbine Academy.
I started school on Jan 2, 2018 and was working for a wind company by mid July of that same year. Travelling all over the country and learning so much more. A lot of this job is learning by doing. Having mentors that learned the same way I did has taken the anxiety away for me being a bit older and starting from scratch. So many wind turbine technicians are from all different careers paths that just needed a change or wanted to make a difference. This has been a great opportunity to feel good about what I do and make a good living doing it. Not many jobs can provide that. I leave most days tired but with a smile on my face, and that says quite a bit.