Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer interns power Carolinas energy sector

Energy firms in the Carolinas put about 600 interns to work this summer, creating a pathway for new entries into an aging workforce, says the two-state trade association E4 Carolinas.

Internships and cooperative education assignments give students a peek into prospective careers and let employers evaluate potential hires. There's some urgency to internship programs that span Charlotte area's largest energy companies, including Duke Energy, Westinghouse and ABB.

E4 quotes the Center for Energy Workforce Development as reporting that 46 percent of the industry's workforce -- 200,000 workers nationally -- might have to be replaced by 2015 as baby-boomers retire.

Many companies say they have a hard time finding qualified people for skilled positions. U.S. children, meanwhile, are lagging in science and math.

Carolinas companies say internships help close that gap by giving them a pipeline to talent.

Siemens Energy in Charlotte is known for its innovative partnership with Central Piedmont Community College and the Centralina Workforce Development Board to train new workers. SCANA's nuclear program hires 40 percent of its interns.

"Internship programs serve as outstanding human resources marketing tools," E4 quotes Joan Espinosa, who heads HR in North America for Charlotte-based SGL Group. "A positive experience with the company gives us a unique insight into what is coming out of the universities."