|Enoserv President Dennis Loudermilk, third from left, presents a $100,000 check to, from left, Dave Sollars, Tulsa Community College associate dean of science, mathematics and engineering technology; Lauren Brookey, vice president of external affairs; and John Gibson, Northeast Campus provost.|
BY SARAH BAUMANN, ENOSERV
Relay and substation maintenance technicians are in high demand as the current work force nears retirement, but utilities and vendors can do something besides waiting for the perfect candidates to walk through their doors.
Enoserv, a Tulsa, Okla.,-based software company that pioneered the idea of universal/multiplatform system protection testing for power companies, recently came up with two ways to place qualified job seekers into high-demand technician jobs with annual starting salaries of about $50,000.
And with a few years of experience, a technician easily can earn a salary in the six-figure range, said Dennis Loudermilk, Enoserv president and CEO.
“As a software and service provider, we are constantly aware of the urgent need for good relay technicians,” Loudermilk said. “This is especially encouraging in an economy where jobs are a scarcity.”
Utilities and testing contractors are moving beyond job search websites and traditional recruiting techniques. Instead, they’re reaching out to external industry resources in search of qualified, experienced techs.
That’s how Enoserv’s field services division came about. The company received weekly and often daily calls from clients and testing contractors who were looking for last-minute help and testing, said David Beard, field services manager.
“Our field services division has seen a rapid spike in calls and requests for our services,” he said. “Not just calls for utilizing our software for protective relay testing and compliance, but actual day-to-day relay technician work.”
Field services technicians’ schedules, however, are booked months in advance. The demand is partly because experienced technicians are retiring.
There’s also a shift in power technology that requires more tech-savvy technicians.
The shifting technologies range from implementing the smart grid, outage management systems or both to changing out old, mechanical relays with digital relays, new compliance standards and the push to use testing software.
Not only clients need to fill relay tech jobs; Enoserv felt the same need. And then came training requests for the current and incoming work force.
In response, Enoserv formed a training division.
Clients wanted to learn more about the company’s RTS and PowerBase software and gain industry-specific knowledge and training, such as schematic electrical print reading, substation maintenance and relay basic fundamentals.
Although training is vital, relay technicians find it difficult to get away from the office and field.
Questions and requests arose about starting a short, intensive training that was centrally located in the United States and taught by manufacturers.
And others expressed a need for degreed employees who received hands-on training in school.
Enoserv came up with two solutions: a conference and a training curriculum at a community college.
The first solution was teaming with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc., ABB, GE Digital Energy and Basler Electric Co. to form the Enoserv Relay & Protection Training Conference.
The first conference will be Sept. 10-12 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The second solution is a response to the need for skilled workers for power utilities and large manufacturers that depend on their own electrical substations.
Enoserv partnered with Tulsa Community College (TCC), one of the most comprehensive community colleges in the U.S., to develop a new electrical substation technology program.
The school ranks 23rd in the number of graduates among 1,150 community colleges nationwide.
Serving 27,000 students annually in credit courses, TCC is the state’s largest two-year college and has four campuses in the Tulsa area.
In addition to providing a knowledgeable industry instructor for the courses, Enoserv donated $100,000 and relay equipment to TCC to support the program.
Classes began this past spring semester with a substation relay circuits class offered in the second eight-week session, which started mid-March.
The class met four hours on Fridays for eight weeks.
The substation-specific courses will be offered in a credit or noncredit format, which will allow traditional students and seasoned electrical workers to be in the same class.
Lauren Brookey, TCC vice president of external affairs, said the college wants to remain responsive to work force demands of local employers.
“This program is an example of what we can do,” she said. “TCC continues to serve our students by equipping them with skills that transfer to the job market, and this training could allow them to step directly into the work force, thanks to the current environment.”
Few schools in North America offer a hands-on approach to teaching substation maintenance and relay testing, and the schools that offer the courses often need instructors.
Enoserv’s Loudermilk spent years trying to start a program with other power companies and schools, he said.
“Enoserv constantly strives to find ways to support the power industry,” he said. “In terms of timing, this was the perfect opportunity for us to pair up with TCC.”
Sarah Baumann is the marketing director for ENOSERV LLC. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in graphic design and has more than a decade of marketing experience in technology companies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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