As the electric utility industry faces a major depletion of its workforce, utilities like CL&P are getting creative in how they recruit new skilled employees. Nearly half of existing utility workers are moving toward retirement, and with years of training required to become a line worker, companies are looking for innovate ways to replenish the workforce.
Connecticut Light & Power has teamed up with the Connecticut Community Colleges and Bismarck State College (BSC) to offer a unique educational training program. CL&P’s Electric Power Technology Program features academic courses at a community college, online courses through BSC - recognized as a center of excellence for energy education - hands-on training at CL&P’s Training Center, and field internship experiences at a CL&P work center.
“With unemployment numbers what they are, this is a great opportunity for students to get a head-start on their career path while at the same time helping to fill a critical demand for skilled utility workers,” said Bill Herdegen, CL&P President. “Instead of waiting for students to finish school and then begin the 48-month training program, their training begins with internships while they’re taking courses focused on industry-specific topics.”
“This is a unique collaboration that provides a great opportunity for students,” said Sharon Gusky, College of Technology Coordinator at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. “The courses through Bismarck provide access to industry-specific technology programs that were not previously available at the colleges, and the internships provide real-life experience as well as a means to help pay for college.”
Fourteen students are currently enrolled in the program and completed their first internship during the winter break. When they graduate next year, they will have earned an associate degree and be prepared for a career as a utility line mechanic or cable splicer.
Casey Marquis, a Northwestern Connecticut Community College student currently enrolled in the program, had his first hands-on experience with pole climbing training over the summer. "It was something of a strange hybrid between rock-climbing and construction,” he said. “If you don't think that sounds like an exhilarating activity, then this probably isn't the program for you. But if you think that sounds exciting, then you're going to have a blast.”