(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Josiah Otto has overcome a fear of heights while preparing for his first climb inside a wind turbine.
Otto, who moved to West Texas from Illinois, admitted he had to overcome his fear to begin studying Wind Energy Technology at Texas State Technical College. Later this month, he will be climbing TSTC’s wind turbine in Nolan County for the first time.
“I am excited about getting to the top of the turbine and seeing what it is like both inside and outside,” he said.
Otto knows his experience atop the turbine capsule will be different from his earlier visit to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago.
“I know in the turbine I will be able to feel the sway of the capsule when we are at the top. It will not be anything like being in a skyscraper,” he said.
Otto, who is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree, said his first climb originally was scheduled in the spring. When it was postponed until the summer, the second-semester students were able to accomplish another goal.
“We were able to get our OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification,” he said. “It was pretty nice to earn that certification my first semester in school.”
Otto decided to make a career change after working as a machinist for eight years.
“I know that electricity is our future and it will be there forever,” he said.
One reason he chose Wind Energy Technology is the diversity of the work available.
“You will have multiple alternatives when you graduate,” he said. “If you are afraid of heights, you do not have to work in the turbines. There are going to be people working on the ground. This degree will help me find a career.”
After eight years in the workforce, Otto knew it would be difficult to adjust to the college experience. However, he said the instructors have been helpful with the transition.
“I was looking for a fresh start,” he said. “I never expected to go back to school. It is completely different than it used to be. I like the way the instructors teach classes, and hands-on training is the best way to learn.”
Otto keeps himself motivated to complete assignments and lab work in order to earn a degree. He knows that once he is finished, the world will be open to him.
“I want to be able to travel. Jobs for wind technicians are available around the world,” he said. “Companies will offer different training programs and teach you different languages. That is what I am looking forward to when I graduate — traveling the world.”
Instructor Billie Jones said students will have several job opportunities when they graduate, both in Texas and the world.
“The great thing about our program is that students can work in different fields,” she said. “If they want to work on wind turbines, they can go anywhere. If they want to keep their feet on the ground, substations are always needing technicians to keep things going.”
According to onetonline.org, the need for wind turbine service technicians in Texas will increase 83% over the next decade. That trend is higher than the national forecast of 61% by 2029. The average annual salary for a technician in Texas is $52,420, according to the website.
Wind Energy Technology offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and a certificate of completion at the Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.