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Andy Burch: Appreciating System Reliability

Jan. 16, 2014
Burch has a part in the reliable system operations in the United States, as senior training and compliance consultant at SOS Intl.

For the past four years, Andy Burch has spent two weeks in Tanzania, Africa, working with a local pastor. The pastor has established two preschools in the area, which serve more than 400 children. They are taught basic writing and math skills and are provided a free meal every day. According to Burch, the children truly love to learn and it shows on their faces. “Being able to attend school in Africa is not a guarantee, but a privilege,” Burch said.

The time Burch has spent in Africa has given him a greater appreciation for the words “system reliability.” The infrastructure is very weak there, he said, and losing power is almost a daily occurrence. “We are very fortunate in our country to not only have a reliable infrastructure, but also well trained and qualified operators to ensure the lights stay on.”

Burch has a part in the reliable system operations in the United States, as senior training and compliance consultant at SOS Intl. He is one of the lead instructors and training program developers. His nuclear engineering background helps him to apply a Systematic Approach to Training methodology to custom training – for both online and classroom. He is also involved in compliance and reliability-related consulting and training.

“My past experience as a System Operations Supervisor, Senior Training Supervisor, and Systems Superintendent at Electric Energy, Incorporated has given me the knowledge and understanding of the regulatory and operations issues facing the electric industry,” Burch said. “By combining the Systematic Approach to Training methodology and utility experience, I am able to design, facilitate, and deliver results-oriented training programs that are aligned with utility company objectives.”

Burch’s nuclear background came about because of a bleak job market in engineering physics after the Challenger space shuttle tragedy. So he applied for the Navy’s Nuclear Power Officer Program, and was accepted. “The Nuclear Navy is where I learned the importance of training ‘to task’ and maintaining proficiency in not only daily evolutions, but also infrequent emergency procedures. Being prepared to act in an emergency was critical when you were hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface. It is just as important in the power industry today.”

Now as a trainer in the power industry, Burch presents courses on NERC Certification Preparation, Voltage Control I and Voltage Control II (with simulation), and Human Error Prevention.

“The courses that SOS provides, both online and instructor-led, are beneficial for new system operators learning the fundamentals of power system operation, as well as seasoned operators with years of experience.,” Burch said. “We strive to develop our training so that it is applicable to the current industry standards. We want a student to feel at the end of class that they are better prepared to do their job.”

Burch also tells students to never be satisfied with your knowledge level. “Always strive to learn more about not only your job, but also the jobs of those with whom you interact. It is human nature to become complacent in a job that has become familiar and complacency can lead to mistakes,” he said.

Burch doesn’t believe in training for the sake of training. With training, there should always be a goal, he said. “A training program should be built from the bottom up, just like a building. You must have a strong foundation, training on the fundamentals and then building from there.”

Burch does not stay complacent in his position, and that is what he enjoys about it. He enjoys meeting people from all over the country and helping them in either preparing for the NERC certification exam or in learning a new concept related to their job. “I receive a great deal of satisfaction from helping people, and being a trainer provides me that opportunity,” he said.

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