Veterans in Energy: New nonprofit aims to help veterans thrive in the energy sector
From G.I. Jobs
Like many industries, employers in the energy sector face a shortage of skilled workers due to an aging workforce and retiring baby boomers. Recent industry surveys indicate that approximately 25 percent of electric utility, natural gas utility and nuclear generation employees will be ready to retire in the next five years.
Recognizing the pipeline of talent flowing steadily from the U.S. military every year, energy employers and trade associations created a platform in 2011 to tap that pipeline: Troops to Energy Jobs. Launched by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and managed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD), the Troops to Energy Jobs initiative helps service members transition to civilian careers at more than 50 energy companies in the U.S.
Getting veterans in the door is the first step. Helping them to thrive in their careers is the next step, which led industry leaders to create Veterans in Energy (VIE), a nonprofit organization that aims to provide professional development and retention services to veterans working in the energy industry. First discussed in 2015, participating energy companies, trade associations, federal agencies and labor groups held two planning conferences, assembled a board of directors, wrote by-laws and applied for 501(c)3 status.
“I feel there is a genuine need for a national-level networking group for veterans in the energy business, and this group helps fill that void,” says Hal Pittman, director of external communications for Arizona Public Service (APS) and a Navy veteran, agreed to serve as the first president of the VIE board. “Our board members and the attendees at our first two conferences served, and we want to support our brothers and sisters who have served. If we’re helping the cause by providing mentoring and growth opportunities for energy industry vets, then we’re paying it forward and doing good work.”
According to the latest CEWD survey, veterans comprise 11 percent of the workforce in investor-owned energy companies and make up 22 percent of the nuclear workforce.
“Veterans are perfectly suited to transition to the energy industry,” says Jon Smith, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Smart Energy Gas Americas Responses and a retired Navy officer who serves on the VIE board. “Technical skills, a passion for results and a desire to serve are among the core traits that a veteran brings with them when they move to civilian work.”
Ann Randazzo, executive director for the Center for Energy Workforce Development, said one of the key best practices that emerged from Troops to Energy Jobs was the creation of veteran employee resource groups to engage and support veteran energy employees. But until VIE, there was no way to connect and support these groups at a national and state level.
“Although attracting and hiring veterans is important, finding ways to support them through the transition to civilian life and keeping them in their new jobs is equally critical,” she says.
Dominion Energy helped develop and launch the Troops to Energy Jobs program. Since its launch in 2011, one in five of the company’s hires has been a military veteran. Dominion also has a seat at the VIE board.
“The Veterans in Energy organization will provide Dominion Energy’s Veterans Resource Group with a place to go for resources and best practices for executing in these strategic areas of focus, ways to communicate with industry peers to benchmarking and sharing, and regional and national meetings where existing and new practices will be recognized and announced,” says Matt Kellam, military and recruitment program coordinator for Dominion.
Southern Company also is helping get Veterans in Energy off the ground. It has three veteran employee resource groups, says Cassandra Carter Wheeler, regional director for Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company. An Air Force veteran, Wheeler says VIE is a great way for their veterans to interact with other veterans across the country to learn and implement best practices.
“This is a great platform for veterans to come together and discuss successes, best practices and opportunities within their specific career fields in the energy industry,” she says. “It also gives veterans a professional network to connect with and learn what’s new in the industry and where the industry is going for career progression.”
The new organization also will provide leadership opportunities for veterans in addition to mentors and professional development.
“There is a huge opportunity for veteran leadership in the energy business, and we want to ensure veterans, regardless of what company they’ve joined, understand there are others across an array of companies who are willing to assist in their development,” Pittman says.
Did You Know?
Veterans comprise 11% of employee population in investor-owned energy companies and make up 22% of the nuclear workforce.
Source: Center for Energy Workforce Development survey
Veterans in Energy is the result of recommendations by the Utility Industry Workforce Initiative (UIWI), a working group that brought six utility industry trade associations, four federal agencies and two labor groups together to identify new initiatives the energy industry can undertake to support veterans working in energy jobs.