ESE Technology/Technician FAQ

ESET graduates are employed in a wide variety of jobs such as:

  • Energy-efficient building design (consulting engineering companies)
  • Analysis, design, specification, and service for renewable energy systems, such as solar rooftop and ‘solar farm’ installations.
  • Sales support for clean energy and energy efficiency  equipment providers and installers
  • Analysis and design of building automation systems
  • Building energy analysis for housing developers, municipalities, and green community associations

Our graduates have been employed by:

  • Small and mid-sized businesses
  • Multi-national corporations
  • Engineering consulting companies
  • Community organizations
  • Energy service companies (ESCO’s)
  • School boards
  • Utilities

As an ESET Technician or Technologist graduate, you will likely be involved with the design, construction, commissioning and troubleshooting of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.  In the area of renewable energy you could work on large and small photovoltaic electricity systems and solar hot water systems.  You might be employed in the field of design and commissioning highly energy efficiency buildings, or building energy auditing and energy retrofitting. Your design and analysis skills could be applied to existing, renovated, or new buildings. These are rapidly growing employment areas with bright futures.

Some jobs may be physical, such as assessing systems in the field, coordinating construction, or installation of equipment.  Some jobs are more analytical and computer oriented, such as developing system designs, specifying components, or computer modeling to simulate the energy output of a photovoltaic system.  Jobs could include assessment of building energy performance and working with clients in meetings, making presentations that explain energy issues and solutions. Your work will likely be in conjunction with a firm licensed to provide services such as engineering, electrical, HVAC, or plumbing.  ESET graduates will also find themselves in new and emerging job categories, such as those required for deployment of smart grids, electricity storage on the grid, and the emergence of advanced wireless building energy control systems.

ESET Technologist graduates have a high level of skill in understanding the qualities and environmental impacts of the common forms of energy: electrical, heat, renewable, and conventional fossil fuels.  You will have the theoretical and practical application knowledge to execute computer modeling of building energy usage and simulation of renewable energy systems. You will possess a depth of understanding of design issues in building science and renewable energy technology.

You will be able to analyze commercial, institutional and residential buildings for energy efficiency and suggest methods and equipment to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. You will also be able to size, specify and install a variety of efficiency and renewable energy equipment such as solar hot  water heating, photovoltaic, and small wind systems. You will have an understanding of various fuel types, and options available for reducing the environmental impact of energy systems. You will be able to provide life cycle economic analysis of various sustainable energy systems and energy efficiency upgrade options to provide a client with appropriate data for solid financial decisions.

The technician program is two years, and the technologist program is three years. Both take a common first year of introduction to renewable energy technologies, heat transfer, computer aided drawing, building heating and cooling science as well as foundational electrical, mathematics, and writing skills.  In the second year both technicians and technologists take the same courses on renewable energy system design, building energy auditing and more advanced AC power distribution. Hands-on experience is a big part of this training and our laboratories and field trips expose the students to a variety of practices required to assemble and diagnose problems with energy systems. Understanding the theory of operation of energy related equipment is key to being a technician and is an important element of the program at the technician level.

Technologists add a third year, which is focused on having a deeper understanding of the theory and operation of energy systems as well as significant exposure to design practices and computer modeling of buildings and sustainable energy systems with the goal of preparing you to join an engineering design team in the building or renewable energy marketplace.

At the present time Energy Systems Technicians and Technologists are not a regulated or licensed trade and this designation is not foreseen in the near future.  Graduates of the program are eligible to join OACETT (Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists), and to apply for the credentials C.Tech. (Certified Technician) or C.E.T. (Certified Engineering Technologist).  These designations are available after some work experience is obtained and are recognized across Canada by employers and other engineering professionals and indicate the holder has a strong foundation in science and technology.

In most jurisdictions, graduates from technology programs such as ESET are not permitted to do certain types of hands-on work that is reserved for licensed trades, such as wiring line voltage circuits or plumbing potable water systems.  Some ESET technician grads have used their training to obtain apprenticeship positions in the licensed trades, and continued their careers in that direction.

The program was launched in September 2005, and was the first of its kind in Canada.  St. Lawrence College now has the longest history in Canada of providing renewable and energy efficiency training.

Our ESET program has benefitted from continuous development since its debut in 2005. Our courses, equipment and instructors are using the latest hardware and software to train you to the highest level possible. We have a strong connection with community based projects where you will work with real client based tasks. For example, we recently provided a comprehensive energy audit of Fort Henry to the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and assisted a local church in reducing their energy bills through a complete energy audit.  All of our instructors blend classroom and online learning technologies to provide a varied learning environment.

We encourage participation in a variety of trips to trade shows and conferences to develop your industry networking skills. The ESET program trains you in both building energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, two fields that are growing and represent the future of how we produce and use energy. This twin technology focus provides our graduates with excellent employment prospects. A work placement opportunity in the last month of the sixth semester allows employers and soon-to-be graduates to gain experience with each other.

The students and staff recently built a portable photovoltaic powered trailer that can power local outdoor music and cultural events.  Some students have also had special opportunities to work in places such as Texas and Jamaica, to use two recent examples.

Our instructors want you to thrive both academically and personally as you pursue your education goals and they work towards providing a variety of experiences that enrich the student experience.

ESET Technicians are involved with project installation, project supervision and basic design tasks. Jobs may be physical, such as equipment installation, troubleshooting, or maintaining renewable energy or building energy efficiency systems in the field.  Or, tasks may be more analysis oriented, such as examining system performance data with an eye to reducing energy costs or improving efficiency. You may work with a design team using CAD drawing and performing basic system design duties. ESET Technologist graduates have the added benefit of a year of training in large building energy auditing, advanced energy consumption data analysis, and more in-depth renewable energy computer simulation and design. Technologists have a more in-depth understanding of the theory and practice of how building and renewable energy system work and therefore are more likely to find themselves in a design role and project supervisor role. As an ESET Technologist you will likely have more direct contact with clients, and deliver technical presentations to clients.

Tradespeople have the very applied practical and equipment selection skills to safely construct and troubleshoot systems in their area of expertise. They are not trained in the detailed design of energy systems or the interaction of various systems in a building, such as how lighting will affect air conditioning, heating loads and therefore annual energy costs. Tradespeople are not trained in looking at the most cost effective energy solution from an analytical perspective using simulation and spreadsheet tools to determine annual and life cycle financial impacts. ESET graduates look at a building as a system that could benefit from improvements in controls, efficiency, or the addition of renewable energy equipment. ESET graduates can perform analysis to look at energy, cost and environmental aspects of independent or interdependent building system retrofits. ESET graduates also have the ability to analyze and contribute to renewable energy system designs at concept, execution and costing levels. In most jurisdictions, graduates from technology programs such as ESET are not permitted to do certain types of hands-on work that is reserved for licensed trades, such as wiring line voltage circuits or plumbing potable water systems.  Some ESET technician grads have used their training to obtain apprenticeship positions in the licensed trades, and continued their careers in that direction.

Engineering technologists typically have a diploma from a 3-year program at a college, whereas Professional Engineers have a degree from a 4-year program at a university.  Professional Engineers are licensed in Ontario by a professional association, and their signature is required by law on certain types of engineering design work.  As an Engineering Technologist, you will likely work on a team that includes a Professional Engineer if you are doing this kind of work.   Engineering technologists do work without Professional Engineers on a wide variety of design, installation, and service work that typically involves solving problems for clients by wisely selecting and integrating commercially available hardware and software.

No. Although computers and computer simulations are a key part of the skill set, you could find yourself in the field exploring the physical dimensions of systems in a building, and coordinating installation of, or working on, project hardware. You may be presenting technical findings to decision makers since this is an important part of the building auditing business. We train you to be an effective communicator through a variety of projects and client presentations distributed throughout the program. As a graduate, you will be meeting the needs of a wave of employment opportunities related to the more efficient use of energy and creation of a sustainable energy infrastructure for our society and this work needs strong social and technical skills.

The classroom theory versus hands-on time in a laboratory setting in our program is about a 50/50 time split. Our students look forward to the lab sections of their courses and you will have labs in solar domestic hot water and pumps, off-grid and grid connected solar photovoltaics, heat pumps, gas fitting, basic wiring, electric circuits, and other areas. You will also use computers in lab settings to learn software such as AUTOCAD, RETScreen renewable energy system modeling, building simulation tools such as HOT2000 and EQuest, photovoltaic modeling tools such as PV Design Pro and PVSYS, and energy system modeling tools such as TRNSYS. These lab sessions are always with 24 or less students, allowing instructors to individually help and track the progress of each student. To allow you to pursue learning in your chosen setting, many professors put course materials online using the College “Blackboard” learning management system. The ability to competently use computers as part of the learning process is essential in this field of study and a first semester course in computing is offered to ensure those skills are acquired early in the program.  As in most businesses, our computing courses use packaged software; computer programming is not a taught skill.

The program is designed to provide you with substantial design and analysis skills in both building energy efficiency and renewable energy system analysis sand design. The mix of hours of training by subject throughout the 3 year technologist program is about 25% renewable energy, 25% energy efficiency and 50% supporting foundational skills such as computers, math, and writing.

Course assessments are typically a combination of tests, assignments, laboratories and presentations Success in each course is defined by the student achieving various “outcomes”. These outcomes are defined in a College standard document that the student is provided with at the beginning of each course. Assessment methods are designed to see what outcomes the student has achieved and provide an indication of proficiency in those outcomes. A typical laboratory course might have 40% of marks from 10 successful labs, two 15% midterms and a 30% final exam, but proportions of marking change with each course.

Some universities do offer credits for technologist diplomas and you are best advised to speak to specific universities if your plan is to take a college diploma before entering university.  We have had a significant number of graduates go overseas for Sustainable Energy Engineering degrees.   We are working with a number of other educational institutions to create paths to university degree programs and other certifications. When such programs exist, it is expected that transfer to a sustainable energy, mechanical or electrical engineering degree would be appropriate.  Ask the ESET Program Coordinator for current university transfer possibilities.

If you do not have the specific courses listed below, please talk to our program coordinator (listed on the main website page). You may have previous other equivalent courses, or you can take online courses to upgrade to equivalent experience.  If you are interested in the program, we are interested in having you as a student and will work with you to help you meet the requirements.  We want to stress that you do not need to be a math or science whiz to succeed in our program.

Entrance Requirements:

  • Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent including the following prerequisites:
  • Grade 12 English at the C, U or M level
  • Grade 12 Math at the C or U level (or MCR3U); MCT4C Recommended.

Yes, if you meet WSIB requirements.

Yes. If you have already taken courses that are equivalent to ones in the program, credit can be arranged.  Some students have even completed our 3-year diploma in two years or our 2-year diploma in one year.  The accommodations are worked out on an individual basis with the Program Coordinator.

Yes.  The College allows you to complete the program, using as much a twice the time of a full-time student. (e.g. four years for a two year diploma).  Keep in mind that most courses are generally scheduled for weekdays, during the day.

Yes, if space permits, you can register for single courses as a part-time student. Many courses do have prerequisites and you will have to show that your past experience is adequate before being approved.  There is no credential or certificate issued for taking a few courses, other than your official college transcript.

As a three year technologist diploma graduate you can expect typical salary ranges at the end of the first year of employment to be $40,000 to $60,000 or more depending on location and skill level required. Many students have indicated their desire to start their own business in this emerging field and those students will possibly earn less initially, but potentially more later as business owners rather than employees. ESET is a new field, and opportunities for highly motivated graduates are broad and potentially very financially rewarding.

Yes - Ground Source Heat Pump (also less accurately known as geothermal) technology is part of the program. We focus on the design and theory of operation, as well as performing labs to assess GSHP efficiency. We perform some lab work where you learn the components of and measure performance of a heat pump. We do not offer ground exchange heat pump design or installation certification. These certifications are offered by industry associations.

 Yes. Jobs exist in the federal, provincial and municipal government levels. Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, Ministry of Energy and Climate Change in Ontario, and various municipal governments all employ people with skills obtained in the ESET program. In addition, our graduates work at public utilities on efficiency and system planning.

SEARC stands for Sustainable Energy Applied Research Centre. SEARC has several professional researchers and a number of Student Research Assistants (SRA) who are engaged in applied research project activities with industry partners.  Recent projects involve studying characteristics of PV panels under typical Canadian conditions such as heavy snow, testing inverters under severe environmental conditions, studying the effect of consumers adopting electric cars on the local electric grid, and evaluating the energy requirements for pumping water through a city’s piping network.  Unique indoor and outdoor inverter test facilities, a biomass hot water heating system, and a roof mounted PV module test facility form SEARC’s main infrastructure capabilities. 

SEARC employs many students in order to fulfill its mandate, both as full time summer positions and as part-time positions through the school year. SEARC also works with our faculty to incorporate some SEARC project work into the regular course material. Students who have worked for SEARC report it to be one of the most valuable experiences they have had at college.  The real world work experience gained from participation in SEARC further enhances application of a student’s skill level in the energy profession.  This work experience is highly desired by employers.