BlueGreen Alliance | Five Questions: Unique Career Opportunities Abound in Offshore Wind

Five Questions: Unique Career Opportunities Abound in Offshore Wind

April 3, 2024

The offshore wind industry is taking off in the United States and with it, opportunities to create and sustain good-paying union jobs. BlueGreen Alliance Regional Field Organizer Dan Taylor talked with Vance Ayres of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) to discuss the unique career opportunities presented in this growing industry.

Answers edited for clarity.

Tell is a little bit about yourself and how long you have been doing this work. When did you decide to join the Elevator Constructors and why? What do you like about being part of it?

I joined the (IUEC) elevator trade in 1997 because I had been part of different unions before. I knew IUEC was one of the best unions. The father of a family I grew up with was an elevator constructor and he made enough money to support his family of six on his income alone. I like being a part of the union because it is like being in a bigger family where there are multiple different folks and agreements that help to protect and look out for you and your family. Your responsibility to the union and our companies is to work and learn. Work hard and pass our apprenticeship program to become the best possible elevator constructor you can be to be able to be employed by one of the many IUEC signatory contractors.

Can you tell us more about your union and the work that you do?  What is the role of elevator constructors in offshore wind in relation to the other trades that you work with? 

Our union has about 30,000 members across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and now in Guam. The role of elevator constructors in offshore wind is the same as it is in onshore wind in that we perform multiple facets depending on the location, first being the elevators in the wind turbines themselves. We worked in composite crews to install/construct the elevators in the wind turbines for Block Island off Rhode Island. And we have serviced and maintained these offshore wind turbine elevators since inception.

We are currently performing the inspections for the Vineyard Winds project off Massachusetts in composite crews. Across the country we have performed service and maintenance on other parts including the nacelle of the wind turbines—which have a lot in common with the equipment our members are trained on and work on all the time. We have actually started to send more of our folks to the Global Wind Organization’s high angle rescue safety training and other proprietary specific training of the manufacturers.

How is your registered apprentice program structured and what type of learning does it entail? How does this relate to offshore wind?

First off you have to pass an aptitude test to see if you have the ability to learn our curriculum and go through a hiring process to get into our federally registered apprenticeship program which consists of four years of schooling, two semesters each year with multiple tests and a mechanics exam. At the end, that encompasses all four years of the learned curriculum at our local training facilities across the country. Then you become a mechanic/journey person, then possibly a foreman or an adjuster. This apprenticeship along with the trade specific training we put you through will enable you to work on wind turbines.

Explain the role of safety in your union and the certifications and training that your members receive. How might this also make your work on projects more timely than non-union contractors? 

Safety is first and foremost in the elevator trade and this is drilled into you the first day you step on to one of our jobs or start in our apprenticeship programs. You will learn and follow our safety policies, or you will not be allowed to work in our trade. This is because from the leadership in the IUEC all the way to the person working beside you. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure you, along with everyone around you, goes home safely. This intense safety practice demands more on time, on budget projects with minimal to zero lost time and injuries per union worker on the job.

What opportunities do you see on the horizon in offshore wind and related industries?

I see multiple offshore wind work opportunities on all our waters because of the Biden administration’s commitment to move to renewable clean energy with the federal government’s investments accompanying the new infrastructure policies. The United States is at the point where big energy and big investors have gotten involved and see the financial gain and positive environmental impacts of transitioning to clean energy like wind turbines. And another positive effect it is and will create a new job sector that will continue to expand with all aspects of the new green energy industries from manufacturing to constructing, servicing, and maintaining these multiple forms of renewable energy.