NextEra’s Job Outlook for Wind Turbine Techs is Misleading

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Mark Twain once famously wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

NextEra’s recent claim on their Facebook page that Wind Turbine Technician is the second fastest growing job in the country certainly falls in this quote. Technically, NextEra is correct. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth rate for wind turbine service technicians is projected to be 44% over the next decade, making it the second fastest growing job in the country. There’s just one problem: There are currently only around 11,100 wind turbine technicians in the entire country. So a job growth rate of 44% over the next 10 years doesn’t actually translate into that many new jobs created per year. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts only around 1,900 new job openings per year for the entire country. That’s not a particularly impressive number of new jobs for the second fastest growing career in the country.

To use an analogy: Suppose the United States were to decide that we want three U.S. presidents instead of one so that decisions are made by a vote. The job of “President of the United States” suddenly just became the fastest growing job in America by a huge margin with a 200% growth rate. Obviously, that 200% growth rate number is very misleading, just as the 44% growth rate for wind turbine technician is.

In fact, if we look at actual number of new jobs that will be created each year in various fields? Some of the jobs you might be surprised to find will produce more yearly job openings than wind turbine technicians are professional athletes, dancers and choreographers, and umpires and referees. Here’s the full list from the U.S. Department of Labor (the same place NextEra is getting their data) sorted in order from most new jobs to fewest.

1 Cooks 480,600
2 Taxi Drivers 131,100
3 Animal Care Workers / Trainers 80,900
4 Health Service Managers 56,600
5 Nurse Practitioners 30,200
6 Physical Therapy Assistants 25,500
7 Logisticians 24,800
8 Web Developers 21,800
9 Information Security Analysts 19,500
10 Data Scientists 13,500
11 Physician Assistants 12,700
12 Statisticians 4,100
13 Umpires, Referees / Other Sports Officials 3,600
14 Athletes / Sports Competitors 2,900
15 Dancers and Choreographers 2,700
16 Solar Installers 2,500
17 Wind Turbine Technicians 1,900

Or in chart form if you prefer:

Chart of job outlook for fastest growing jobs.

As this table and graph show, when it comes to actual number of jobs created per year in the top 20 list? Wind Turbine Technician ranks dead last, at only 1,900 jobs per year.

In fact, this is the reason Kirkwood Community College has announced they are eliminating their wind turbine technician program after the current class graduates: Lack of interest, and lack of demand.

Twain was right. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Note: The reasons there are only 17 entries in the “top 20 list” are as follows:

  1. The occupational outlook data lists “Motion picture projectionists” and “Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers” among the fastest growing occupations, but does not provide detailed data for them, so it is impossible to determine how many yearly job openings there will be for those fields.
  2. Some jobs, such as “animal care worker” and “animal trainer” were listed separately, but ultimately use the exact same data. Rather than list 80,900 openings for animal care workers, and 80,900 openings for animal trainers, which would be inaccurate, I combined them into one job because it’s clear from the data that those job openings are split between the two. The ratio of the split between “care workers” and “trainers” cannot be determined from the available data.

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I'm a freelance writer who has published multiple technical books on computer programming, software engineering, and UNIX administration. I'm also a long time resident of rural Buchanan County who owns and takes care of rescue horses. I am interested in preserving our rural farm land for the future of both our children and our animals.

One thought on “NextEra’s Job Outlook for Wind Turbine Techs is Misleading

  1. According to the 1/1/23 P&Z Meeting Minutes, Vinton Buffenmeyer of NextEra made a presentation in which he said there would be 5 to 10 fulltime high quality, high paying jobs and more than 200 construction jobs. Later, in the same presentation, he said there would be 20 plus new long term jobs. So, in the same speech we have gone from 5 to 10 to 20 plus full time jobs. Which is it? The 200 construction jobs will be gone in a few months once the project is completed.

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