SunPeak’s Systems Integration Leader Talks about Traditional, Advanced & Critical New Skill Sets for Solar Technicians

Photo Courtesy of SunPeak

As leader of the Systems Integration Group at SunPeak, John Schwarzmeier oversees the SunPeak teams that are responsible for the interconnection, commissioning and long-term reliable operation of customer systems. The company website states, “He is an expert in PV system Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and has advanced knowledge of system monitoring and reporting. John also leads customer education and training initiatives for installed systems.”

John Schwarzmeier, group leader of Systems Integration at SunPeak in Madison, Wisconsin, sees two  sets of skills for solar technicians and the emergence of a third set of critical IT skills.

First, this is what he considers the “traditional” attributes for all solar technicians:

        • knowledge of electricity, circuits, solar energy, and the national electrical code;
        • understanding of  the means and methods for installing solar energy systems;
        • fluency with construction terminology and tools;
        • experience with construction and job-site safety; and
        • a good work ethic.

The second set of skills is for forward-thinking individuals who want more advanced solar technician roles. They need to be able to use specialized tools such as global positioning systems (GPS), unmanned aircraft systems or drones, or special test equipment that is specific to the solar industry.

“Experience in some of these special tools and equipment would definitely give them a leg up,” he said. Continue reading “SunPeak’s Systems Integration Leader Talks about Traditional, Advanced & Critical New Skill Sets for Solar Technicians”

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Entrepreneur Anticipates More Overlap of Nano & Biotech within Agricultural Technology

Entrepreneur and PhD physicist Aaron Santos suggests community college students and faculty pay attention to the intersection of micro and nanotechnologies with biotechnology, and the emergence of their use in sensors and other new devices.

In short, nanotechnology innovations are becoming more commercially viable in bioscience products.

“My prediction is that you’re going to see what happened with the programming and software startups that you saw popping up in the 90s. I’m predicting that you are going to see a similar effect with some of the biotechnologies that are coming out now,” he said.

He pointed to the CRISPR gene editing technique and the processes for coating DNA and other bio-molecules on to nanoparticles as examples of emerging technologies that are beginning to be used for genetic detection and differentiation of proteins.

Santos says the products that have emerged so far provide nice ways “to detect things like disease markers and genetic variations.”

Continue reading “Entrepreneur Anticipates More Overlap of Nano & Biotech within Agricultural Technology”

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Employer Prizes Supply Chain Technician with Strong Troubleshooting Skills   

By Madeline Patton

As a regional maintenance manager for Dollar Tree’s 25 distribution centers in the continental U.S., Phil Gilkes looks for certain skills on resumes, and then listens during interviews for mention of particular technologies.

For example, it piques his interest when supply chain technician applicants respond to his question about their experience with electric motors by talking about variable frequency drives (VFDs) and servo mechanisms. “VFD and servos are extremely important everywhere in our business,” he said, explaining that many technicians struggle to fix this equipment despite their ubiquity and many years of existence.

But the skill that Gilkes considers indispensable—and that he would like technical educators to teach—is logical thinking.

“If there was a magic wand, it would be to instill in technicians the ability to take a logical approach to troubleshooting. If they [technicians] were to ask, you know, just ask in their head, a few questions that start with ‘Well how should this piece of equipment be operating? Why isn’t it behaving that way? And what are the things that could have made it behave that way?’ Continue reading “Employer Prizes Supply Chain Technician with Strong Troubleshooting Skills   “

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Project Hosts Regional Convenings on the Future of Work

By Madeline Patton

Following on the work of its 2019 face-to-face convening in Winston-Salem, NC, in autumn 2020 the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project continued its development of regional partnerships with a virtual convening of representatives from Texas Gulf Coast employers, education institutions, and non-profit workforce development organizations.

Principal Investigator Ann-Claire Anderson opened the sessions by explaining that the purpose of the project is “to help colleges work in interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, inter-sector ways with industry and with one another so that we can make sure their program graduates are ready to use technologies that are just a twinkling in someone’s eye right now.”

The Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD), which is the project’s host institution, partnered with San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, to convene the three, 90-minute Zoom meetings. Prior to COVID-19 the project had planned an in-person workshop at the college’s 45,000-square foot, waterfront Maritime Technology & Training Center.

Each session concentrated on one of the three categories of cross-cutting skills that the project has identified as essential for technicians to understand in the future.

      • Business Knowledge and Processes (October 30)
      • Advanced Digital Literacy (November 6)
      • Data Knowledge and Analysis (November 13)

Summaries of the featured speakers’ presentations are below. Slides from their presentations as well as information about the instructional materials being developed by Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work, and research reports from various sources are at

Continue reading “Project Hosts Regional Convenings on the Future of Work”

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Honda Talent Manager Suggests Educators Add IT Skills & Data Analysis to Industrial Maintenance Programs

By Madeline Patton

Scot McLemore, manager of Talent Acquisition and Deployment at American Honda Motor Company, Inc., places technology trends in two categories: 1) technological advances specific to the products being manufactured and 2) Industry 4.0, particularly the internet of things (IoT). To prepare technicians for advancements in both categories, he suggests educators integrate information technology (IT) basics into traditional industrial maintenance programs.

“What’s important is that those graduates have a fundamental understanding of networked systems. What are IP addresses? How do I change an IP address? So as they are plugging their laptops into manufacturing devices, they have a fundamental understanding of how those things work. That’s what I’d like to see happen. I think that’s where programs are going to need to head. Because we talk about ‘Smart Factory’ and the network systems within industrial operations, and that’s where everything is headed.”

The capability of networked equipment to generate data about manufacturing processes and, increasingly, to communicate with other equipment will likely add another dimension to technicians’ work. Continue reading “Honda Talent Manager Suggests Educators Add IT Skills & Data Analysis to Industrial Maintenance Programs”

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