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Energy Skills to Teach in High School

What important high school skills are related to energy?

If you are teaching high school students with an interest in energy, it is important to understand the core industry fundamentals. Students should learn both the basic skills needed for their trade of interest as well as the specialized skills for the industry.

A 2008 report prepared for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities called "Energy Industry Core Skills Study" (268KB, .pdf) outlined these core energy fundamentals and specializations. The findings of this report are outlined below.

Core Fundamentals

Candidates for entry-level positions in Minnesota energy companies all need the following skills:

  • Piping and instrumentation diagram reading
  • Basic math
  • Basic electricity
  • Industrial safety

Trade Specialization

Various trades play important roles within energy. Different workers need to learn entirely different skills. In addition to learning the core fundamentals listed above, workers would do well to learn specifics of the trade in which they want to specialize.

Mechanical Specialization

  • Pumps, valves, compressors
  • Piping
  • Hand and power tools
  • Rigging and lifting
  • Bearings and lubrication principles
  • Alignment
  • Precision measurements
  • Hydraulics
  • Welding

Electrical Specialization

  • Electrical theory, both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC)
  • Motors
  • Circuit breakers
  • Electrical test equipment
  • DC systems

Instrumentation and Control Specialization

  • Basic electronics
  • Programmable logic controllers
  • Process control systems and field devices
  • Pneumatic controls
  • Microprocessor controls
  • Basic instrumentation

Operations Specialization

  • Pumps, valves, compressors
  • Circuit breakers
  • DC systems
  • Programmable logic controllers
  • Basic instrumentation

Industry Specialization

Industry-specific knowledge and skills are also important for successful employment in energy. In addition to the areas detailed above, you should learn more in specific subject areas depending on the industry in which you want to work. There are some similarities across these industries, but many differences.

Fossil-Fueled Power Generation Specialization

  • Power plant fundamentals
  • Basic thermodynamics
  • Boilers
  • Steam turbines and generators
  • Steam and water cycle
  • Plant electrical systems
  • Water chemistry and treatment
  • Plant performance and operations
  • Plant auxiliary systems
  • Pollution control and continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS) equipment
  • Combustion turbines
  • Heat recovery steam generators

Wind Energy Industry Specialization

  • Wind farm fundamentals
  • Blade theory
  • Fiberglass repair

Solar Industry Specialization

  • Solar energy fundamentals
  • Environmental earth science
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Carpentry and construction
  • Fundamentals of energy use in buildings
  • Basic applied physics
  • Computer aided drafting
  • Statics and dynamics
  • Solar economics
  • Basic algebra, geometry, trigonometry
  • Solar time

Ethanol and Biodiesel Specialization

  • Process plant fundamentals
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Distillation theory
  • Advanced chemistry

Gas Distribution Specialization

  • Heavy equipment operation
  • Pipeline industry fundamentals
  • Gas control center operations
  • Refrigeration
  • Painting
  • Cathodic protection

Source: "Energy Industry Core Skills Study," Minnesota State Colleges and Universities