The utility industry is plagued by an aging workforce and by the challenge of finding employees qualified to replace those headed for retirement. In an effort to build its local pool of skilled electrical workers, Silicon Valley Power (SVP) in Santa Clara, California, is investing in the engineers and technicians of tomorrow.
College and technical school students living in Santa Clara and pursuing careers related to the electric utility industry may be eligible to receive scholarships or tuition grants from the city and SVP. The city is offering $5,000 scholarships to new and continuing college students and $2,000 to trade school trainees who will be enrolled by October 2016 for the 2016-17 school year. Students must apply by Nov. 3, 2015.
Career opportunities and salaries are on the rise for engineers, technicians and power line workers in the industry. SVP, Santa Clara’s municipal electric utility, wants to encourage students to explore those options. “Like SVP, utilities all over the country are looking for qualified workers to be part of the exciting new world of the smart grid,” said John Roukema, Director of SVP. “Satisfying and lucrative career opportunities abound for students completing courses that prepare them for work in the many fields of the electric utility industry.”
The program has awarded 30 college scholarships and six technical school grants totaling $162,000 since it started in 2006.
Applicants studying energy services, electric utilities, or fields associated with the power industry in general may download the application, or call 408-261-5036 for more information. Santa Clara residents have until Nov. 3, 2015 to submit applications for the SVP Scholarship Awards program.
Western salutes our customer Silicon Valley Power for taking a proactive approach to workforce development.
Show and tell Western’s fuel cell kit and infrared camera made an appearance at the first STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Expo hosted by Alexandria Area High School March 26. ALP and its power wholesaler Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) helped sponsor the event with School District 206 and other community partners. The event featured hands-on demonstrations and learning exhibits by the sponsoring partners, as well as students’ projects in STEAM subjects.
At the ALP exhibit, visitors could learn where power comes from and how it gets to their homes. Two students from the school’s science academy helped at the ALP booth and showed visitors how the fuel cell produced electricity. “They were so excited to learn about the equipment,” said ALP Energy Services Representative Vicki Gesell, who coordinated ALP’s participation. “I was really impressed with their ability to explain how fuel cells work and answer visitors’ questions.”
A working solar panel from MRES was also on display, as well as linemen gear and a length of underground cable, with a ratchet cutter so students could cut off a souvenir.
A lighting display featuring light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting showed how smart electrical energy choices save electricity, money and limited resources. Students surveyed their surroundings through the infrared camera and learned how to find heat loss and detect potential equipment failures. Gesell noted that kids loved seeing infrared images of themselves, confirming that the powerful diagnostic tool can also be a secret weapon for public outreach.
Hundreds of students and parents attended the expo, making it a great place to meet and chat with customers. “An event like this gives us the chance to be a part of the community, to talk to our customers in person about their needs and to remind them about the programs ALP offers,” Gesell observed.
Lots to discover ALP offers residential customers plenty of ways to control and reduce their energy use. Customers can receive rebates on eight different Energy Star appliances and all-electric water heaters with 92-percent or greater efficiency factor. After installing a qualified water heater, ALP adds a load controller free of charge to cycle the unit for short durations during peak load times. The utility also has an off-peak heating program.
Through the MRES Bright Energy Solutions (BES) program, ALP provides rebates on high-efficiency electric furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and lighting. “Now that LED products are coming down in price, customers are interested in making the switch to these longer lasting bulbs,” noted Gesell.
BES has an extensive list of rebates for commercial customers, too. Incentives are available for heating and cooling systems, manufacturing equipment, commercial food handling appliances, efficient lighting for new and existing buildings and custom measures. Another service BES offers is a New Construction Design Review to help customers build efficiency into their new facilities and get incentives to help pay for the measures.
Building efficient future The site of the STEAM Expo illustrates the benefits of planning for energy efficiency with the help of your power provider. Completed in 2014, Alexandria Area High School is expected to save more than $76,000 in energy costs each year.
Last December, ALP and MRES presented school officials with a check for $121,849 through Bright Energy Solutions. The rebate covered insulation in the school’s roof and walls, windows and sunshades, efficient heating and cooling system and lighting. Also, the school district purchased several ENERGY STAR appliances for the cafeteria, culinary arts and concession areas.
Like participating in the STEAM Expo, offering incentives to improve energy efficiency in schools is more than just good customer relations—it is an investment in the future. Money the district saves on energy costs can be used to educate students in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. More students studying those disciplines today mean a better-prepared workforce tomorrow. ALP Utilities may one day hire some of those students to provide the community with reliable electricity and help more businesses manage their energy use.
If not quite the “Circle of Life,” you could call it a Circle of Sustainability, and Western is pleased to loan our customers educational displays to keep it going.
Public power providers often team up with local schools to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) talent in their communities. Now, a competition is offering utilities and schools the opportunity to share their experiences—and win prizes and recognition for their innovative programs.
Ashoka’s Changemakers is partnering with Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation to unleash the talent of professionals in STEM-related fields to engage students, particularly our highest-need students, in rich STEM learning. Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math Education, an online collaborative competition, will spur creative ways for companies, universities and other organizations with expertise in the STEM fields to partner with the public schools that need their talent. Sponsors include the Jhumki Basu Foundation, Alcoa Foundation, Amgen Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, Google, The Mind Trust, AFT Innovation Fund and Noyce Foundation.
The competition is looking for program models that find new ways to bring STEM resources from the private and not-for-profit sectors into the classroom, promote mentorship and introduce students to opportunities in STEM industries. Winners are eligible for more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes that could be used to expand an existing program or kick-start an initiative that has been sitting on the “drawing board.” Submit your innovative solutions by 5PM EDT on August 3, 2011.
And don’t forget to tell Energy Services about your program while you are at it. We don’t offer prizes, but we would love to feature your program in the Energy Services Bulletin.