Filling the gap on hiring
On March 12, Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Artis, looking to retire from the Navy, took a step toward his first civilian job in two decades.
He drove from the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., to the Navy Tri-Base Job Fair in town, walked up to the TVA booth and met Staffing & Recruiting Manager Mary Bach, recruiting program manager Susan Boyd and the rest of the TVA recruiting team.
His resume, which included work as an aircraft electrician and a maintenance supervisor, was reviewed and Bill Cronin, plant manager at Widows Creek Fossil Plant, interviewed him. TVA gave Artis – and seven other Navy personnel – tentative job offers.
“We made the offers on the spot,” says Bach. “It was a trial for us that worked well. Our utility competitors at the job fair were taken aback.”
But Bach and her colleagues in Human Resources are climbing the Everest of staffing challenges. Over the past several years, about 700 TVA Baby Boomers have been retiring each year. That’s challenge enough. But now retirements are hitting a two-year peak – some 1,200 employees are expected to retire this year and about the same number in 2009. That’s about 10 percent of the TVA workforce retiring each year. As a result, HR is expecting to make about 750 hires this year and 950 in FY ’09.
On top of TVA’s numbers – two more factors are heating up the hiring market.
First, other utilities are facing the same Baby Boom retirements. There were six power companies – including Progress and Duke – at the Jacksonville job fair.
Second, just as TVA is building Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 and planning for new generation after that, other utilities are ramping up big projects of their own. Across the Southeast, there are plans for some 30 nuclear units, 16 coal-fired units, 26 gas turbines and 35 combined-cycle plants, and 3,500 miles of transmission lines.
That means TVA will be competing for needed talent in engineering, maintenance and operations. Skilled, experienced craft workers – boilermakers, welders, instrumentation technicians – are at a premium already.
Bach says the military is a natural source of experienced, qualified employees.
“TVA recruiters also attended a Navy and Air Force Job Fair in Charleston, S.C.,” she says. “We’ve already made senior reactor operator job offers to candidates identified at the Charleston job fair, and TVA is interviewing others for maintenance supervisor and junior nuclear instructor positions.
For nuclear and fossil, the Navy is proving to be an excellent source for talent. Recently, Nuclear Recruiting Program Manager Donna Curry traveled to Albany, N.Y., to meet with 50 Navy nuclear officers as part of a Transition Assistance Process program.
For tomorrow’s linemen, electrical apprentices and other craft pipeline training programs, TVA recruiters are spreading the word about the education necessary to qualify for TVA jobs among students at Valley high schools and technical and community colleges.
After the Jacksonville Job Fair, Artis and the other seven tentative hirees flew to Chattanooga for an assessment and further interviews. Six of them landed jobs – Artis as a maintenance supervisor at Allen Fossil Plant.
“I didn’t know anything about TVA,” says Artis. “The job fair brought everything to the table.”