J. David Lankutis - Senior Projects Manager - Power Engineers
Three years ago, an intern showed me how to save half a million dollars a year on transformer purchases.
I really want to show college students the exciting aspects of our industry, to give them an incentive to pursue careers in power and energy. We need new engineers and we need new ideas.
Our industry has some big challenges: control systems, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources and ongoing modernization of the grid. I'm a big believer in the importance of energy efficiency. We're facing increasing demand and the need to find new energy sources, but if we were to become more efficient we wouldn't need nearly so many of those new energy sources. There is a huge debate about the most appropriate sources of new energy. The need for more "negawatts" is not debatable.
I have no trouble making a business case for bringing in interns, even though at our company the interns are paid. Of course, we have to hold their hands a little bit, but they do productive work. In fact, three years ago, I had an intern who showed me how to save half a million dollars a year on transformer purchases. If we hold their hands now, the time of hand-holding a new full time employee will be much shorter.
I try to make sure my interns do have good experiences and provide quality contributions. I've had one or two interns at a time for the last several years and it's so much fun working with them. They're open-minded, and they look at things in new ways. I've been in the industry 40 years, but the questions they ask make me think. They manage to stump me every day.
In the past we haven't always had positions available for all the interns that I wanted to hire, but that's changing fast. There will be many job opportunities in our industry, even for students who just finished college. Hiring previous interns is ideal because we already know they're capable of making quality contributions in the industry. I'll even keep track of interns if I can't hire them right away, and when I do have a position available, I'll reach out to them. It makes sense for me: I've already evaluated their technical abilities and their work ethic, so I'm way ahead of the game.
Everyone in the industry is having trouble finding graduates with the appropriate experience. I think it would help if more universities offered power courses. I'm glad that the ultimate vision for the Scholarship Plus Initiative® includes supporting the academic community so more students can take power courses. This will greatly benefit students seeking jobs in the industry.
Our industry has to step up to the plate as well. Academic institutions tend to focus on theory, and we can help to provide the practical applications and teach students about the "real world." Engineers from my company give presentations to students to let them know what they might do if they work in the industry. We bring groups of students to tour our facilities. They have a lot of curiosity and interest. I really enjoy seeing their faces when we show them how we apply the theories that they learn to light bulbs going on. I can see the light bulbs go on in their heads as well! That's really important. The more light bulbs we can get turned on, the better.