Manitoba Hydro gives young workers the power

When looking at how the workforce of Manitoba Hydro is evolving with time, Recruitment and diversity development manager Kim Lanyon notes the aging workforce as a reason why there is so much opportunity for young people at Manitoba’s provider of electric power and natural gas utilities.

“We’re not necessarily growing our workforce, as we’re trying to be cost conscious, but at the same time we’re always hiring,” said Kim. “That’s partly due to the fact that we have a very aging workforce, with over 900 people that could retire today. That means opportunities for young people to come in, because we can’t lose that knowledge transfer. The co-op and summer programs allow us to build up employees and let them ease into the role.”

The 18 to 35 demographic makes up 27% of the workforce at Hydro, and that promises to increase as the baby boomers leave the workforce.

Hydro’s summer student employment program is open to anybody, as long as they’re going back to school.

“If they’re in high school they need to be over the age of 16, as well as it being open to post secondary students as well,” said Kim. “You can be in the program for three years, then there would be the possibility of bringing the student on in a full-time or term position.”
Students have to apply through STEP services, and select different categories within Hydro that they might be interested in based on their career path.

“First year students generally go into general labour or administrative work, and once their schooling becomes more focused they can focus where they’d like to work too,” said Kim.
“We have post-secondary programs for our professional programs. We have engineer in training, commerce, IT, which we develop. We also have the co-op program for our Red River College students and work experiences as well, which blends in with our summer student program. We have relationships with all the major post-secondary institutions in the province, including the University College of the North.”

Growing and rebuilding throughout Manitoba
“One of our challenges is we have a very high northern workforce that we’d like to maintain,” said Kim. “Some people up in the north want to stay at or near home, so those opportunities allow for them to train and work in the north. We have over a thousand employees working in Manitoba’s north.”

Scott Powell is the manager of public affairs of public affairs with Hydro. He notes the level of growth and change around the company and province that hasn’t been seen in decades.
“We are in one of the most exciting times ever for Manitoba Hydro,” said Scott. “Not only do we have new projects that we are building, with Keeyask and Bipole-3, allowing us to expand our systems and improve our reliability. We’re also in the midst of the greatest reinvestment into our existing assets that we have ever gone through. We’re rebuilding substations that are 50 to 60 years old. This allows us to reconsolidate our existing system and grow with the population. We haven’t seen this level of work since the 1960s with rural farm electrification.”

So what’s the best part about working for Hydro?

“Our culture and the opportunities that present themselves,” said Kim. “There are many opportunities for change, and with change comes growth and new opportunities. People might not want to stay in the same job for 25 years, and you can change jobs while staying in the same company.”

“To keep those lights on keeps such a wide variety of skills and jobs,” said Scott. “The breadth of jobs available and the amount of people on the verge of retirement means that there will be a wide range of opportunities in various quantities right across all the skill sets for the next number of years.”

Climbing the poles
Hydro is currently hiring for power line technicians, with 56 spots to be had for the four-year apprenticeship program. There’s a lengthy process to get in, with educational requirements including Math 40S and Physics 30S. Then there’s mechanical aptitude and hands on tests, including the ability to climb poles and aren’t afraid of heights. Being willing to work outside and anywhere in the province is also crucial, as you never know where power lines will need to be installed or repaired.

“When you’re putting the amount of resources and training into the program as Hydro does, you want to make sure that that’s what those people really want to do and they want to do it,” said Scott. “From what I’ve seen, we’ve got a first-class group of individuals.”

Andrew Nott has been in the Power Line Technician program since the fall of 2012, and says he really loves his job.

“I chose to enter Manitoba Hydro’s Powerline Technician program for the primary reason that it allows me to work throughout my entire apprenticeship,” said Andrew. “The PLT program provides many physical and mental challenges which was something I wanted in a career. Each day is unique with work varying from building large scale subtransmission and distribution powerline projects, all the way down to installing a meter in a customer’s home.”

“The best part is the opportunity to work with a group of like minded people each day. We all have each other’s back, and work together to ensure we go home safe each night.”

To find out more about becoming a Power Line Technician, visit https://www.hydro.mb.ca/careers/training_programs/power_line_technician.shtml

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