In just a few short days, ESMO 2019 will be underway in Columbus, Ohio. The event, from June 24-27, is hosted by American Electric Power (AEP) and sponsored by IEEE PES. To kick off the event, panelists will focus on the need for field engagement in the utility industry during the opening session. Brent Stegner, the distribution technical skills manager, will serve on the panel and discuss the training program at his utility and the need for safety in the trade.
Q: Talk about your past experiences with ESMO. How did you get involved in helping with the event, and how do you feel about working for the host utility for ESMO 2019?
A: My first exposure to ESMO was when AEP hosted the event in 1995. I was working for one of our operating companies at that time, Wheeling Power. During that session, I had the opportunity to help with the logistics of the event and to hear and see the various presentations and outdoor activities.
Q: How do you think ESMO 2019 will be different from other conferences, and what can attendees expect to learn?
A: ESMO offers a focus on the construction side of the business coupled with the field activities.
Q: You are serving on the panel for the opening session, "Field Engagement is Key." What do you plan to cover during your part of the presentation?
A: I plan to cover Distribution Technical Training at AEP with an overview of Distribution Training organization, an overview of distribution line mechanic apprentice process, trends in distribution technical training and then opportunities and challenges on the horizon for distribution technical training.
Q: Why do you think it's important for power companies to engage their field workforce into all aspects of the power delivery business, and how are you accomplishing this mission at American Electric Power?
A: One word – safety. Everything we do must be done safely. In our business, there are no second chances. We are responsible to deliver a product that the customers expect to be there all of the time. The safety of our workers and the safety of the public can never be compromised. The product we deliver travels at the speed of light, has no smell and you can’t see it, but if you take one shortcut, it can drastically change or end your life. When field workers are involved in the development of the practices and procedures and understand why we are doing things a certain way, we are more likely to follow those policies and procedures and go home safely at the end of each day.
Q: Discuss how your company is encouraging collaboration and innovation at the field level.
A: The processes and work practices must be built to the highest standards to ensure the safety of the front-line workers. These standards and procedures must be such that the front-line workers understand the why’s behind the standards and procedures so they can make sure they are providing a safe work environment for their activities.
Q: As far as your role at AEP, what are some of your key responsibilities as the distribution technical skills manager?
A: I have responsibility for the distribution line apprentice training program, which currently has more than 600 apprentices at various levels across our seven operating companies. We are also providing training on an annual basis to more than 1800 journey level distribution line workers through a three-day class that has both classroom and hands-on activities directly related to distribution line work. My group is also responsible for the meter electrician training, which includes the more technical meter installations as well as controls for various distribution automation equipment such as regulators, reclosers and capacitors controls on the distribution system.
Q: How did you get interested in a career in the power industry, and do you have other family members who have worked in the business?
A: I started working for an electrical contractor right out of high school with no plans to go to college. Working on the construction side got me to thinking about the technical side of the electric business, which led me to enroll in a two-year associate degree program and a local technical college. This experience continued to grow my curiosity into the technical side resulting in the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Upon graduating from college, I began my career with AEP on the engineering side and have been involved in many different aspects of the business on both the engineering and field operations portions of our business.
Q: Why do you think power industry professionals should consider registering for ESMO 2019?
A: ESMO is a great opportunity to see what is going on in the power industry and a great opportunity to network with peers from other utilities, utility vendors and industry experts from around the world.