Wanted: Students to Participate in This Country’s Energy Future

Workers to make our energy future a reality

The power and energy industry’s success over the next decade depends on retaining existing knowledge holders and attracting new talent. Historically, that has been a challenge. In April 2009 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society (PES) section wrote a report that established six objectives designed to proactively respond to the need for innovative research and increase the number of promising engineering students who are committed to power and energy careers. Three of those objectives revolved around creating scholarships and internships to rapidly fill the pipeline with more undergraduate power engineering sudents and help ensure their career development. The other three objectives focused on rebuilding the ranks of universities’ power and energy faculty through centers for excellence and other resources.

The report helped drive the Department of Energy’s (DOEs) decision to use $100 million in stimulus funding for Smart Grid education. The DOE granted a total of 52 awards, which are being used to help rebuild programs targeted towards Smart Grid education. The awards have been given to support craft workers, engineers, community colleges, universities and other aspects of academia and industry. This diverse mix of stakeholders are helping to rebuild all of the elements of the educational portfolio that are of critical importance to smart grid’s success. Today, rising student interest and recent short-term infusions of research support are helping to rebuild universities’ power and energy educational programs.

As a result of these myriad efforts, we are seeing more students enter the power and energy field. The IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative is helping to attract undergraduate electrical engineering students to the Smart Grid pipeline by providing three, one-year scholarships of $2,000, $2,000 and $3,000 in students’ sophomore, junior and senior years as long as they meet academic and student career experience requirements in the power and energy field.

One way to get students and others interested in Smart Grid is to attract students who are studying engineering, but remain uncertain about their specific career direction. The PES offers them a “home” and the means to connect with the industry and its professionals through actual hands-on experience and guidance.

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