Building Our Future Workforce
Last week, we celebrated Careers in Energy Week at Great Lakes Energy. It was a great opportunity for energy companies like Great Lakes Energy to encourage conversations and career exploration in Michigan’s energy industry by students.
GLE has a real stake in growing Michigan’s workforce. Positions in Michigan’s energy industry are projected to grow by 6% through 2026. Among other positions, GLE needs apprentices to replace lineworkers who will retire over the next decade and additional field/technical positions to deliver Truestream high-speed fiber internet to our members and upgrade/expand our electrical distribution system.
Part of GLE’s strategy in “filling the pipeline” with future workers involves cultivating potential workers while they’re still in school. Through steps such as offering summer jobs and apprenticeships in our industry and getting involved in career trades education (CTE), we accomplish several goals:
- Introduce students to career possibilities at GLE;
- Give them a look into GLE’s work culture and position ourselves as an employer of choice;
- Allow the student and GLE to evaluate skills and fit for a future career at GLE or within the energy industry.
This past summer, GLE hired numerous young workers for Truestream, our new high-speed fiber internet division. Let us introduce you to some of them, who were hired as “fiber fieders.” These employees take training in GLE’s distribution system to learn how Truestream services use that system to deliver high speed fiber internet service to GLE members. Fielders’ duties include such tasks as learning to use a laser to measure heights of pole attachments cables and electrical lines, and equipment such as transformers. Essentially, they gather information needed to begin Truestream installation.
- Chandler Bartig is from East Jordan. Chandler, a high school senior, worked as a temporary fiber fielder this summer. Chandler’s goal is to become an electrical engineer, in keeping with his affinity for math, physics, and science. By working as a fiber fielder and sharing his career goals with GLE, he opened the possibility of being hired as a summer engineering intern when he heads off to college. He was pleased to learn about an electrical distribution system during his fiber fielder duties and says his experience left him hoping for a permanent position with GLE someday. Meanwhile, as a senior at East Jordan High School this fall and a quarterback on their football team, he was elected homecoming king—a nod to his friendly personality. He claims to have gotten his inspiration for learning from his mother and adds that his parents always taught him hard work pays off.
- Four other fiber fielders hired—Blake Courtright, Holden Delaney, Caid Schroeder, and Hunter Sparks—graduated from Boyne City High School this year after taking the school’s Energy Fundamentals: Lineworker Emphasis course. A partnership between Boyne City High School, Char-Em Intermediate School District, and three electric utilities including Great Lakes Energy, the course provides pre-apprentice lineworker training to students who are interested in such a career and gives them a leg up in the hiring process of the many utilities looking for apprentice lineworkers or utility technicians.
All five men take pride in their roles of bringing Truestream high-speed fiber internet services to GLE members. They talk about their satisfaction in knowing that the job they’re doing is part of bringing “game changing” high speed internet services to GLE members.
Chandler remarks, “Truestream will be awesome! Some places I went had no internet at all. Truestream will connect GLE members like that to the rest of the world!”
Blake notes that he enjoys meeting new people through his field duties and takes pride in being able to answer questions about Truestream services coming soon.
Blake, Holden, Caid and Hunter make the connection, too, between their present duties and eventually becoming lineworkers. Hunter’s grandfather had been a lineworker for the pre-GLE co-op, Top O’ Michigan. He remembers using his grandfather’s climbing gear and “getting hooked” on climbing. Family friends who were lineworkers planted the seed with Caid, in addition to his guidance counselor talking about the profession. Blake and a friend talked about becoming lineworkers two years before the class was offered at Boyne City High School. And Holden looks forward to using as a lineworker all he learned in the high school course and as a fiber fielder.
The men all love working outdoors and enjoy the “real-life experiences” of meeting GLE members. They appreciate the advantages of learning information as fielders that will help them once they become lineworkers, such as locating lines, reading pole numbers, learning how GLE’s distribution system is designed and mapped, and determining whether lines are primary, secondary or neutral.
Hunter notes that one of the instructors for the GLE pre-apprentice course he took was a GLE lineworker who helped teach the course. “He pushed those of us in his class to ‘find your passion,’” Hunter recalls. He is pleased that GLE reinforces that sentiment, encouraging employees to grow and support each other.
All five men hope that their hard work as fiber fielders leads to other positions for them at GLE or elsewhere within Michigan’s vibrant, growing energy industry.