PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A select number of Northern Maine Community College students will spend their summers among turbines and wind towers thanks to a partnership between the college and a Lincoln-based firm.
NMCC officials and Larkin Enterprises Inc. signed an agreement Thursday that will provide paid internships for NMCC students enrolled in the wind power technology program. The internships will have students working at wind power projects throughout the state.
Larkin is a professional and technical personnel firm specializing in power generation, and mechanical and electrical industries.
“This agreement is all about giving students an opportunity to get into this industry,” NMCC President Tim Crowley said Thursday. “These internships will help our students get connected with companies that will be working in this industry for years to come.”
Last fall, NMCC launched a first-of-its-kind program in New England geared toward training wind power technicians to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators.
Officials from NMCC said they were inspired to create the program in light of the growing interest in wind power and NMCC’s proximity to the state’s first commercial wind farm just 14 miles from the campus in Mars Hill.
The college is instructing 40 students in the associate degree program.
College officials have noted that conservative estimates indicate Aroostook County has the potential to realize 50 to 80 new, long-term, highly skilled, high-wage technical positions in operation and maintenance for wind farms between 2009 and 2012. Additional employment opportunities are anticipated in neighboring northern Washington County, Franklin County in western Maine and in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. A two-year technical degree is the desired credential for entry into these positions.
Current entry-level wages for a wind power technician range from $18 to $22 an hour.
Before the establishment of the internship program, Larkin Enterprises hired three interns from NMCC over the summer. The students had completed NMCC’s introductory wind power technology course in the spring.
Richard Larkin, co-founder of Larkin Enterprises, said the company is pleased to be working with NMCC on the internship program.
Mike Ireland, the business development manager for Larkin Enterprises, said Thursday the number of interns hired will vary from year to year depending on the company’s needs. Applications will be sought, and the most qualified students will be chosen.
Students enrolled in the wind power technology program attended the press conference. The students already have hitched themselves up to safety gear and climbed the wind turbine on the nearby campus of the University of Maine at Presque Isle to see the equipment that runs the windmill.
Parker Brown, an NMCC student from Mapleton, was one of the interns who spent the summer working for Larkin Enterprises on the Trans Canada-Kibby Mountain wind project in western Maine.
“It was definitely a good opportunity,” Brown said. “I saw a lot of things I had not seen in the classroom. I learned a lot.”