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Enriquez Taking Non-traditional Path to Career in Wind Energy Technology

Thursday, February 28, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

EnriquezFor as long she can remember, Julie Enriquez has been fixing things.

Whether it was the family car with her father at their Taft home or in the United States Air Force, Enriquez was always comfortable behind some type of machine - taking it apart, fixing it and putting it back together.

“My dad always had my big brother and me helping him with the car,” Enriquez said. “We just kind of grew up around maintenance.”

Enriquez, who was born in Harlingen but later moved to and was raised in Taft, north of Corpus Christi, grew up liking photography and all things art. But once she graduated from Taft High School in 2008, her plans changed.

Enriquez enlisted in the Air Force and became an aircraft mechanic. Her duties included maintaining the aircraft and general inspection of the airplanes as well.

Today Enriquez is one of 13 students going to school at the Renewable Energy and Technology Center in Ingleside. The TSTC center opened in the fall of 2011 to offer an Associates in Applied Science in Wind Energy Technology (WET).

Enriquez looked into the program on the suggestion of her father and eventually signed up. Enriquez is the only female in the program and considered a non-traditional student in the booming male-dominated industry.

“I guess it just goes to show that I can do anything they (male counterparts) can do,” Enriquez said. “But I’m used to it. It’s not a big class and everyone knows each other so they treat me like one of the guys. And when I was in the Air Force, I was the only female doing what I was doing. So I’ve worked in the male-dominated industry for a long time.”

Enriquez is in her fifth year as a reservist with the USAF and about to complete her first of two years in the WET program at Ingleside.

“I already had the background in maintenance with the Air Force and I didn’t know anyone working in this field. So I decided I wanted to try it.”

Students in the WET Program learn to operate and maintain the systems that make a wind turbine function whether it's an electrical, pneumatic, communications, computer, control or hydraulic system. Safety is a critical part of the wind energy industry and upon completion of the program they'll be able to practice those principles in industry. Graduates of the WET program go one to earn between $40-50,000 right out of college.

In March, Enriquez and the other 12 students in the program will sacrifice their Spring Break vacation to drive to Sweetwater where they’ll climb one of the wind turbines for more practical training.

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