Steve Vietor

Steve Vietor | Wind Instructor | Riverland Community College

ALBERT LEA, MN – Steve Vietor’s enthusiasm for his job is contagious. After spending a few hours in Steve’s electrician shop at Riverland Community College in Albert Lea, we’ve been given a crash course in the school’s wind, solar and electrical course, and a feeling that the renewable energy industry is in very capable hands.

Steve started working in the electrical industry in 1975. But for the past 23 years he’s worked as an instructor at Riverland Community College, most recently running the electrical, solar and wind training program. The students we meet in Steve’s class have their instructor to thank for the program’s existence.

“Around the year 2005, with the sudden growth of wind in Minnesota, I realized this is a career opportunity for our electrical students. So, we got involved in analyzing renewable energy as it was developing around us and wondering what we’d need to add for curriculum,” Steve tells us.

Finding the pulse of the coming energy transition helped Steve create a program that fully launched in 2007. Steve now acts as a champion for the program he helped create.

“We have trained a lot of people, men and women, that have gone out there and worked in the wind industry. The exciting thing about that industry is that it has some phenomenal benefits, great pay, they work primarily days, great opportunities for advancement,” he says.

Plus, he adds – he’s training his students for jobs they can find in their own community. Steve says one of the best things about the fast-growing clean energy sector is the number of good paying jobs sprouting up in rural Minnesota. That helps small towns by keeping talent local and strengthening the economy along the way.

Of the more than 57,000 Minnesotans currently working in clean energy, 30 percent of those jobs are in Greater Minnesota.

In order to stay current on industry trends and to ensure his students are getting top-notch training, Steve has formed a close relationship with EDF Renewable Energy. In fact, he recently took a sabbatical from Riverland to work for EDF full time for a semester. This training benefits all of the students that walk through Steve’s classroom door.

“As an instructor, I realize that we are today responsible for starting these students on career paths and because of that, I consider that training to be my greatest responsibility,” Steve explains.

In addition to his teaching and training responsibilities, Steve spends a lot of time talking to the local community about renewable energy and educating the public about how clean energy is contributing to Minnesota’s economy.

Take for example the fact that renewable energy generation jobs grew by an impressive 16 percent in 2016 – 11 times faster than overall job growth in Minnesota.

Steve says there’s one person who has unwaveringly supported his passion for educating students from the very beginning.

“My cheerleader has always been my wife. My wife is extremely proud and she's a great supporter of renewables. She thinks that what we do here at Riverland and supporting that growth is incredibly important,” he tells us.

And even though Steve has been working as an electrician for more than 40 years, he’s still in awe of the power of clean energy – it’s what drives him to continue his work at Riverland.

“I have grown with the wind industry here in Minnesota and I still have to tell you that as I drive down the freeway and I see late at night wind turbines with their red-light flashing, I feel like I have a certain role in in that development. And both my wife and I think it's pretty neat,” Steve says.

Students who have graduated and moved onto wind energy jobs may also, agree it’s pretty neat that Steve Vietor has dedicated his career to becoming an expert on clean energy. He is training the workforce that’s enjoying the fastest job growth in the state. His tenacity is a testament to the passion found throughout the clean energy industry.