ST. CLOUD -- The energy industry is facing a huge problem over the next 5-7 years -- finding skilled workers to fill the job openings.  Many of Xcel Energy's workers -- along with other power company's workers -- are nearing retirement age.

To meet the demand, Xcel has teamed-up with the St. Cloud Technical and Community College for a Energy Technical Specialist program.  Students who get the AAS degree have a great shot at landing a job.

Bruce Peterson is the Dean of Industry and Trade at the college.  He says the students are learning a wide variety of skills, including about alternative energies like wind, solar, and biofuels.

This unique collaboration was created to help fill a projected shortfall in skilled energy workers.

In the program, Xcel Energy sends a certified employee to the campus to administer the Edison Electric Institute test, which is required to enter the industry.

Peterson says they had 14 students  enroll in the program in it's first year in 2009, they now have over 80 students.