CNY High School Students Explore Careers in Energy at National Grid

Oct 10, 2018

A National Grid worker demonstrates what happens to an ordinary rubber boot when exposed to live wires.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

About 30 students from Syracuse’s Institute of Technology got a taste Wednesday of what can go wrong when a squirrel gets caught up in power lines. wasn't a real squirrel, but the look-alike did cause a component to blow, startling the students and other observers.

The demonstration was one of many activities at National Grid’s sprawling training facility in Liverpool as part of “Careers in Energy Week.”    Manager of new talent development Erin Cunia says there is a growing need for new workers to fill the vacancies left behind by retirees and others leaving the industry.

"We need people who want to be line workers.  We need people who want to be gas mechanics.   We're working with the high schools and colleges to try and raise awareness of those trade positions that don't necessarily require a college education. But maybe they can get a certificate that makes them more qualified to get that job off the street."

Students from the P-tech program at the Institute of Technology in Syracuse gather to watch a demonstration as others train on poles behind them.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Cunia says they just signed an agreement with the SUNY system that ensures their curriculum matches what students need to know.   She says Wednesday's various demonstrations are intended to engage students about the wide variety of work.

"Sometimes you see those light bulbs in the students, when they realize that it's not just the guys up fixing the lines; it's not just engineers.  There are many behind-the-scenes job opportunities available."

She says there is also a huge amount of responsibility resting on the shoulders of these tradeworkers to get everything up and running smoothly after an outage.

"They're helping get the lights back on.  They're helping get the gas so people can still heat their homes and cook their food.  They do bring that energy to their homes, to their lives, to their businesses, and the technicians find that very rewarding."

Cunia says that rewarding work comes with good pay and benefits, and occasional long shifts.  In all, about 100 students from three area high schools toured National Grid’s learning center this week.

A worker demonstrates what happens when a ladder comes into contact with live wires.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News