Fourth successful year of YEA

BY STEVE TRAIMAN, Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG – In its fourth successful year, Duke Energy expanded its Youth Energy Academy (YEA) to three locations to include Ocala and continue its events in St. Petersburg and the Winter Garden-Orlando area.

First session is July 16-17 at Duke’s Bartow Plant near Weedon Island in St. Pete for the entire two-day interactive workshop. Registration deadline is Tuesday, July 14, online at www.yea2015stp.eventbrite.com.

For the July 30-31 event, first day will be at Duke’s Winter Garden Operations Center, with the second day at Siemens Wind Training Facility (morning) and the OUC Gardenia Office (afternoon).

YEA, students, featuredThe goal of the events is not only to attract and retain diverse high school talent in the energy industry in both the engineering and professional fields, but also the craft trades such a line workers. Advocates for African Americans (A3), a Duke employee resource group, have led the effort as part of its mission.

The team won the company’s highest employee award for making their own heartfelt commitment to change things and open young minds to possibilities.

After the ceremony, Alex Glenn, Duke Energy State President Florida, told The Weekly Challenger, (August 28, 2014 issue) “We are extremely proud of the YEA team. Malcolm Barnes, Francis Foster, Mikle Gordon, April Harley, David Maxon and Melvin Philpot represent who we are as a company … The Youth Energy Academy is making a difference today and will enhance the communities we serve for years to come.”

New co-sponsors and external partners include Ocala Utility Services, Sumter Electric Cooperative (SECO), Orlando Utility Commission (OUC), and Nielsen, in addition to founding stakeholders, American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) and Siemens. This year in St. Pete, A3 reached out to the Pinellas County Urban League Young Professionals to identify interested students and to gain expert experience from its members on other STEM careers.

Partners for its first Ocala event, which attracted 62 high school students on June 12 to the College of Central Florida’s Hampton Campus, were OUC and SECO. Among those conducting the workshops were Duke business assessor Derick Farfan and engineering technologist Fabian Ruiz. Their presentation, “Power 101,” touched on principles of electrical engineering and power transmission, as well as law, history and politics related to the energy industry.

Kathy Judkins, an AABE member and SECO deputy director of community affairs, said, “We’ve had a great response. Kids are coming out and they’re learning about our industry. We’re losing a lot of individuals to retirement, so we are focused on sharing with our youth the opportunities they have in the energy industry.”

Day one typically focuses on corporate culture, soft skills exercises and live demonstrations. Day two centers on the specific tracks, with the approximately 50 students rotating through hands-on experiments and exercises, supported by subject matter experts.

Duke Florida’s District Managers provide valuable sponsorship funds. Siemens Energy’s employee resources group, African American Network, provides experiment kits, volunteers, lunch and a venue for the students to tour its state-of-the-art wind turbine lab.  American Association of Blacks in Energy-FL (AABE-FL) is a critical component of the organization and facilitates the follow-up and tracking of interested students.

To expand its outreach to high schools, Duke works through these and other support organizations.  Duke leverages these organizations, because of the career and personal development missions and because they have their hands on students throughout the summer when YEA is conducted. Most students in those programs have some commitment to personal and career development.

Among these programs are the Pinellas County Job Corps and the Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS) as well as YMCA of Central Florida, Boys & Girls Club of Volusia County, Frontline Outreach, Collegiate Pathways, and Forest High School Ocala EMIT Program.

According to A3 Chair Francis Foster, since the YEA began in September 2012 they have had between 40 and 60 enthusiastic high school kids at each session. There have been about 250 students to date, and at the end of each session they typically see about a 50 percent increase in interest in our energy industry from the start of the event.

“When I spoke to students in 2012,” recalled Michael Lewis, formerly Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery Florida (Distribution), now Senior VP, Chief Transmission Officer, “I noted the opportunity for them to join a topflight team. Our organizational pride is very attractive, and they can belong to Duke as a family. That YEA attendee today can be a teammate of mine, and in my 28 [now 31] years I have seen many of us grow together as a family. We are looking forward to the continued growth of our YEA career awareness program and expansion of the ‘mobile footprint’ across Duke Energy’s territory.”

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