Jun 29, 2017

Powering up PPL’s STEM workforce

Tom Lynch, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, PPL Services

PPL Chief Human Resources Officer talks about best practices for building the workforce of the future

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector. Available jobs in the field are set to increase 17 percent between 2014 and 2024. How does PPL, a company that relies on skilled, technology-minded employees, maintain an engaged STEM workforce? Chief Human Resources Officer for PPL, Tom Lynch, sat down with Workforce Diversity magazine to talk about the company’s STEM recruiting efforts. Below, he offers additional thoughts on best practices for building the workforce of the future.

The energy industry is transforming at a pace unlike any other. With the evolution to an integrated, two-way power grid, delivering safe, reliable power increasingly relies on our ability to incorporate state-of-the-art technology and address new challenges, such as accommodating distributed energy resources like micro-grids, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage.

It is more important than ever to have a pipeline of bright, technology-minded employees to meet these challenges with innovative ideas.

Our changing workforce

As the largest generation of workers nears retirement, the workforce is changing as fast as the energy industry. At PPL, it is estimated that 40 percent of our workforce will retire within the next 10 years, which challenges us to continually develop our current employees while also building a strong pipeline of skilled workers for the future.

STEM careers like engineering are complex and take years to master. PPL has been able to harness the experience from our tenured engineers through knowledge-transfer programs. These programs provide mentorship and structured learning opportunities to ensure that the deep well of engineering knowledge present at PPL does not retire along with our engineers.

A diverse, engaged workforce

PPL maintains a steady focus on not only hiring and recruiting skilled workers, but also on providing engaging opportunities that promote job satisfaction and fulfillment so those workers want to stay.

Our engineer rotation programs and apprenticeships provide entry-level employees a chance to work in a range of areas and disciplines where they get first-hand experience and build skills that will allow them to make a lasting impact on the organization for years to come.

PPL also looks to create meaningful experiences for talented students through internship programs. The programs provide hands-on project responsibilities, networking opportunities, and a professional development series for personal growth. In many instances, the program can be a gateway to full-time employment after graduation. On average, PPL hires 40 percent of its interns.

Take a macro view

At PPL, we take the macro view of STEM recruitment. We don’t think about just hiring for right now but for generations to come. We do this by looking to our communities. We help to establish programs that not only drive future STEM leaders but that also serve our communities.

We are committed to engaging in projects that support STEM education principles and prepare educators and students — from preschool through university — to address critical energy issues and emerging trends in electricity.

In Pennsylvania, we partnered with the Girl Scouts to help launch a mobile STEM lab, which brings cool science-related programming into more rural areas, reaching girls who might not be able to easily get to Scout centers and camps.

In Kentucky, we partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters to sponsor the School to Work 1-to-1 Workplace Mentoring Program, which connects employees with high school student “scholars” so they can learn about careers in energy and college preparation.

The culmination of these efforts goes well beyond a well-staffed and trained workforce. PPL is inspiring and creating the next generation of STEM leaders.