Training the next generation hydropower workforce

In June, the Foundation for Water and Energy Education's second annual Hydropower and STEM Career Academy was held in Wenatchee, Washington. The academy, which is hosted by the Chelan County PUD, aims to teach high school students about the job opportunities and benefits of working in hydropower.

The weeklong academy gives more than 20 students the opportunity to see hydro plants in action, talk to diverse employees - including divers, electrical engineers, civil engineers, fish biologists, and more - who work in the industry, and complete hands-on projects to better understand how hydro works. For example, all students build a generator and turbine to generate electricity to power a string of lights.

"It's a great way for students to understand electricity in general. At the end of the academy, every student is able to ace any test about general electricity knowledge," said Randall Stearnes, who is the community relations officer of community and media services for Tacoma Public Utilities as well as the board president for the Foundation for Water and Energy Education.

"We have a wonderful menu of careers students can enter, depending on their passions and what training they want to pursue," Stearnes said. "We thought, 'How can we showcase these jobs instead of just going out and talking about them?'"

The academy was created after a FWEE meeting, during which members discussed youth outreach and generating interest in the industry. Many members attended career fairs but wanted to take efforts a step further.