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AMI Expert: Utilities Must Address Workforce Training Needs

Aug. 25, 2023
Tillman and panelists — Tanika Davis, director of workforce development at Exelon Corp.; Kristie Kelley, workforce development director at the Center for Energy Workforce Development; and Jose Bopido-Memba, chief diversity officer at SMUD.

Darren Tillman started as a ComEd meter reader in 2015. Now, he supervises advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) field operations at Baltimore, Gas & Electric Co. (BGE).

When life gets busy, slowing down to appreciate the small things is a must for Tillman.

“I love to go picnicking along one of the waterfronts in Baltimore,” Tillman said. “That’s a very relaxing and peaceful activity that allows time to appreciate the small things we may take for granted. Spending this quality time doing things I love with my wife, Courtney, makes it that much greater.”

But at work, training cannot slow, Tillman said. He’ll discuss how small, missed training opportunities add up to big worries as he moderates a Sept. 12 panel session during the T&D World Live Conference in Sacramento, California.

“My session, ‘Addressing Workforce and Training Needs,’ is focusing on the industry and how it is changing related to innovation, technology, customer demand and how companies operate,” Tillman said. “The training and development have needed to adjust and adapt to fulfill the needs of our customers and for continued operational excellence.”

Tillman and his panelists — Tanika Davis, director of workforce development at Exelon Corp.; Kristie Kelley, workforce development director at the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD); and Jose Bopido-Memba, chief diversity officer at Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) — will discuss what utilities across the country are doing to fulfill training needs.

“We will also hear what the Center for Energy Workforce Development, which represents more than 120 energy companies, is doing to partner and contribute to the cause,” Tillman said.

CEWD partners include the American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, American Public Power Association, Distribution Contractors Association, Edison Electric Institute, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Nuclear Energy Institute and Utilities Technology Council.

Although utilities operate differently from different cities and municipalities and under different regulations, Tillman said their foundations must center on three tenets.

“Working safely, operating efficiently and trying to provide a premier customer experience,” he said. “More is expected of utilities in safety, quality of work and grid resiliency. The demand for smart metering, solar energy and net metering, electrification has increased across the industry. This cannot be done without appropriate workforce development and training.”

Tillman is a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and an NCCER-certified trainer for metering and safety. He oversees a team of AMI meter maintenance technicians who execute residential meter maintenance for gas and electric metering throughout BGE’s service territory in Maryland. He also helps oversee the field inspection unit, which inspects three contractors who execute residential meter maintenance and gas service abandonment and meter removal in Baltimore City.

His experience includes roles in quality control for new business and as a contract coordinator for Chicago Region Business Support. He spent a year at the gas utility in Chicago, Peoples Gas, and as a senior contract coordinator in BGE’s contract and project management department. There, he oversaw 18 electric distribution and traffic controls vendors.

“Along with this role, I managed many RFP/bid events for major projects and created contracts for projects such as 4kV conversion upgrades, Amazon data center installations, 34kV feeder maintenance and other projects,” Tillman said.

The T&D World Live Conference will be Sept. 12-14 in Sacramento. Registration, conference and event details are available on the conference website.

Kristen Wright is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering global utilities, petroleum and policy. She is chief strategist at Kristen Wright Strategic Communications. Reach her at [email protected] and wrightkristenm on LinkedIn.

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