Power Generation: Plant Operators and Plant Mechanics

Recognized Skill Standards
October 21, 2008

Background

These skill standards were developed in 2006 in a project led by Washington State’s Centralia College Center of Excellence for Energy Technology and funded by the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. They are the result of the collaborative work of industry, education, labor and government.

Importance to Texas

The Power Generation skill standards describe the work functions, activities, and skills associated with the Plant Operator and Plant Mechanic occupations in a hydro-electric power generation environment.

Hydro-electric power is only a small portion of Texas’ energy generation resources. Fossil-fueled energy, dominated overwhelmingly by natural gas, makes up over 85% of Texas’ installed energy capacity, according to the Governor’s Competitiveness Council’s report, 2008 Texas State Energy Plan.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) data indicates a 2006 average hourly wage for power plant operators close to $26.00, with the employment numbers growing slowly through 2014. While the numbers are small, they are critical in meeting the power generation needs of the state.

While there are on-the-job training opportunities and links to formal and informal apprenticeship programs as the TWC data describes, colleges also offer certificate and AAS degree-level training. These skill standards were presented for conditional recognition with the expectation of leveraging them as a basis for a possible future project to expand them to more fully address skills associated with fossil fuel energy generation and provide a strong, industry-defined curriculum development resource to colleges.

Recognition

The Associate Director of Utilities and Energy Management and staff at the 85-megawatt power plant that provides for the energy needs of the University of Texas campus in Austin reviewed the skill standards and requested that Texas consider recognizing them, indicating a concern regarding the availability of trained power plant operators to fill openings that are expected to be created by an aging workforce nearing retirement.

The Power Generation skill standards were recognized on October 21, 2008.