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College President gains real-world training in the fastest growing field in the nation

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College, climbs turbine for the first time

May 23, 2016

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College, stands on the nacelle at the top of the North American Wind Research and Training Center turbine with Tucumcari Mountain visible in the background.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College, stands on the nacelle at the top of the North American Wind Research and Training Center turbine with Tucumcari Mountain visible in the background.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College, recently made the dramatic climb up the nearly 300 foot wind turbine at the North American Wind Research and Training Center. This once-in-a lifetime experience gave Dr. Newsom a better understanding of the daily responsibilities of a wind energy technician and the College’s role in training qualified technicians for this rapidly growing industry.

“I’ve always known that having access to a wind turbine on campus was a major advantage for our students in terms of their preparedness for the workforce,” said Dr. Newsom. “When I climbed the turbine myself, I was able to stand on top of the nacelle and see the amazing views of the city and Tucumcari Mountain. I have a new appreciation of the fantastic facilities we have at Mesalands and the unique training opportunities they provide to the wind energy professionals of the future.”

According to a recent Bloomberg News article, wind turbine technicians occupy a job category projected to expand more than any other by 2024; surpassing even health care and technology. Entitled ‘Nation’s Fastest-Growing Job Only for Those Who Like to Get High’, the article suggested that the demand for wind energy technicians is likely to grow by 108 percent through 2024. This expansion is partially due to the five-year production tax credit (PTC) recently approved by Congress, which ensures that wind power will remain the nation’s fastest-growing source of electricity.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College and Brett Clark, recent graduate of the Wind Energy Technology Program at Mesalands Community College, stand inside the nacelle of the wind turbine.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College and Brett Clark, recent graduate of the Wind Energy Technology Program at Mesalands Community College, stand inside the nacelle of the wind turbine.

“With the extension of the five-year PTC, wind is a booming industry!” said Andrew Swapp, Wind Energy Technology Instructor at Mesalands. “We are now a key player in providing the skilled labor for that market. You can’t just put anyone in those positions; the industry needs highly skilled and experienced technicians.”

According to Swapp, the demand for trained technicians is not the only thing that is increasing. The Bloomberg News article noted that wind energy technicians earned an average annual wage of $53,030 last year. Also, skilled technicians with college degrees and experience in the industry may have even higher starting salaries.

Swapp said he continues to receive phone calls from major wind corporations wanting to hire Mesalands graduates. Granite Services International, NextEra Energy Resources, Vestas Wind Power, Wanzek Construction and the Javalina Wind Farm of Laredo, Texas, are just some of the companies that have sought to hire recent wind energy technology graduates from the Mesalands program.

“That puts us in a prime position to provide our graduates with multiple career choices within their chosen field of wind energy technology,” said Swapp.

Students who are interested in pursuing the Wind Energy Technology Program at Mesalands are encouraged to tour the Wind Center and meet with program instructors. Swapp said students begin climbing the wind turbine within the first two weeks of the program. This gives students a more accurate assessment of the physical demands of this field.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom pauses for a quick photo as he climbs the nearly 300 foot wind turbine at the Mesalands’ North American Wind Research and Training Center.

Dr. Thomas W. Newsom pauses for a quick photo as he climbs the nearly 300 foot wind turbine at the Mesalands’ North American Wind Research and Training Center.

Swapp accompanied Dr. Newsom on his first climb of a wind turbine. He says he is pretty sure that Dr. Newsom has no plans to change his current career path, but this major accomplishment confirms that he believes in active leadership.

“I was so impressed with how hard Dr. Newsom worked for this. When he reached the top of the turbine, his vision of the campus and the College really came alive. To hear his vision of where he wants to see this College grow to in the future was inspiring to say the least,” Swapp said. “When you have a leader that pushes you up a hill, it’s awful hard to get behind that agenda. But when you have a leader who is out in front, who has a vision of where you’re going and shows you how to get there, that’s inspiring! Dr. Newsom is one of those extraordinary ‘show the way’ types of leaders. It’s exciting to work for someone like that.”