A steady stream of students climbed beneath the winged doors of a BMW i8, smiling widely as they imagined taking the sleek black vehicle on the road.
The electric sports car was the eye candy, but what really mattered was what 100 young people heard at other Career Day booths at Alabama Power’s 12th Street Crew Headquarters in Birmingham.
Despite cool temperatures and a driving rain, the students from Carver, Jackson-Olin and Ramsay high schools listened intently to more than 40 members of LEAP (Linemen, Engineers and Apprentice Programs).
“It’s pretty interesting,” said Kason Boston, a junior at Jackson-Olin. “I’m planning on going to college to study sports medicine, but it’s good to see what goes into producing electricity.”
Power Delivery Specialist Wayne Hodges used Alabama Power’s automation trailer to demonstrate how electricity is instantly restored nowadays, with customers seeing just a blink rather than losing power, as would happen sometimes when he went to work for the company 42 years ago. Hodges pointed across the street to a power pole top-heavy with sophisticated equipment.
“That makes a more reliable system for you, our customers,” Hodges said of the state-of-the-art instrumentation. “It doesn’t make the company more money, it just makes sure your power stays on.”
Students looked inside the open compartments of two bucket trucks, one of them with the bucket lowered to the ground for inspection. As yellow emergency lights blinked, the students climbed into the truck cabs and honked the big steering wheel horns.
“I think it’s great exposure for the kids,” said Arisha Bolden, who teaches English at Carver. “It’s a great hands-on opportunity for what their future may hold.”
It was LEAP’s fifth Career Day but the first for Bolden and fellow Carver teacher Jonathan Hackett, whose students include girls and boys studying electrical, mechanical, structural and robotics engineering.
“I think they’re being really engaged,” said Hackett, who has been teaching 12 years. “The key to this event is the exposure to professionals and what they do on the job.”
Environmental Affairs Specialist Mike Clelland, who coordinates the award-winning Renew Our Rivers cleanup campaign, handed out logoed waterproof phone cases, popsockets, writing pads, pens and brochures. He said Career Day is annually a good opportunity to encourage young people to respect the environment.
As several students looked at drones used to inspect power lines, Training Analyst Tony Green explained how electricity is generated. He used spinning wire and magnets to light a small bulb, then had two girls put on safety gloves to hold large, round magnets and make a lightbulb intensify as they moved closer. Green reminded them that applicants for jobs at Alabama Power must earn at least a high school diploma.
Nearby, E&W Journeyman Jeremy May presented “Substation 101,” using a scale model city to show how those facilities operate and fit into the overall production and transmission of electricity. Production & Control Field Services Test Engineer Chad Schmidt demonstrated relays, noting they are the “brains” of the electric system. Lead Cable Splicer Ronny Morris and Cable Splicer Kevin Naramore exhibited the primary supplies and tools used on their job.
Students donned headsets for a “Power Quest” virtual reality safety presentation. Birmingham Division External Affairs and Marketing Manager Foster Ware emphasized to the students they should dream big, set goals and work toward fulfilling their ambitions.
After spending nearly five hours learning about Alabama Power and career opportunities, the students filed onto eight school buses and headed back to their schools. Engineer Gilbert Contreras said Career Day 2020 was a success despite the bad weather.
“Our LEAP staff strived to connect with the students and inspire them to think about their futures,” said Contreras, who chaired the event with Engineer Jake Sloan. “I believe we did a great job showcasing the various career paths available with Alabama Power.”