As I sat down to write my viewpoint this St. Patrick’s Day, my thoughts kept coming back to the color green — green products, green training, and, of course, green beer. Just to clarify, it’s still early in the day — so I’m not drinking green beer quite yet. That will come later tonight when I kick back to take in some first-round basketball action from the Big Dance.

From the time I first entered the electrical industry back in the late ’80s, the general thoughts on training have always been the same. Refresher-type courses are a great way to reinforce your understanding of topics you should know like the back of your hand but may not use on a regular basis. Courses that focus on new concepts and materials you’re unfamiliar with are a great way to broaden your expertise level while making you more valuable to your employer and customer base. The best time to take part in these “new concept” courses is when work levels have tapered off a bit, and you have the time to truly absorb the new material.

Although many of you (myself included) envisioned a quicker turnaround in market conditions than we’ve seen to date, it appears the recovery is moving along, although slower than we’d expected. Taking a positive spin on this means you still have time to take part in training programs that expand your horizons. The market sectors that still seem to show potential for big future growth are the renewable and energy efficiency segments (i.e., the Green Market).

If you’re an electrician who enjoys working outdoors, why not sign up for some solar or wind power courses? Many of the hourly or daily training sessions focused on these systems offer classroom and hands-on sessions to fit many learning styles and work schedules. For those of you interested in moving into these areas on a full-time basis, there are accredited programs in place at training institutes and colleges around the country now that offer solar and wind energy technology degrees. These programs prepare you to work as a full-time technician in these growing markets, installing and maintaining these systems.

If you’re a plant/facility engineer or an electrician who prefers to work indoors, why not sign up for some energy efficiency courses? Many of the training sessions in this area teach you how to better analyze, operate, and control the electrical and mechanical systems across a wide range of buildings and structures. I personally feel this is the hottest and fastest growing area in our industry right now. The demand for energy efficiency experts and the services these types of individuals provide are unparalleled by traditional positions within our industry.

If you’re an electrical design engineer looking to spread your wings, maybe it’s time to pursue one of the LEED professional credentials. Opportunities exist in the areas of building design, building operations and maintenance, neighborhood development, and residential homes. If this doesn’t interest you, then why not seek out training programs that focus on solar power or wind farm design? These systems are finally gaining widespread acceptance in many areas of the country. There really is something for everyone.

As I wrap up my thoughts on green training, my attention turns back to beer and basketball. Unfortunately for me, the green and gold uniforms of my alma mater — the University of South Florida Bulls — will not be on display in this year’s NCAA tournament. So in keeping with today’s green theme, a quick check of the games on tap shows me Michigan State plays tonight. Go Spartans and Cheers!