Smart Energy Internships turn into opportunities for lifelong careers

Less than three years out of high school, former intern Daquan Alford is a top-performing Utility Trainee for BGE with his eye on the future

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Workforce Development

Baltimore schools are preparing students with the work ethic, dedication and enthusiasm to move into high-skilled jobs. And BGE is always on the lookout for talented people interested in fulfilling work. BGE’s Smart Energy Intern program is the conduit between schools and employment, guiding eager high school students toward rewarding careers. And BGE’s Utility Training Program fully grounds new employees in the company’s culture and practices.

Daquan Alford is a terrific example of the schools/internship/trainee link. Just a few years out of high school, Alford thoroughly enjoys his work and is already looking ahead toward advancement.

Alford acknowledges he understood little about utility work growing up. He was aware that on the rare occasions the electricity went out, “I knew the power would be coming back on in a little while.” But like most people, he had no idea what it took to rekindle the lights.

Today, he reflects on that early awareness of the power company and applies it to one of his primary goals: being in service to others. He is proud to know that the work he does makes life easier for the families and businesses that rely on BGE. He also gets great satisfaction out of knowing he’s part of the team turning the lights back on.

Alford attended Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School (Mervo), where he mastered skills necessary for construction and engineering, like measurement and mechanical concepts and techniques. A teacher recognized his abilities and recommended him for BGE’s Smart Energy Intern program.

Smart Energy experience

During his internship in the summer of 2017, before his senior year, Alford learned first-hand about an important aspect of utility work: preventing conflicts between new construction and underground pipes and electric infrastructure. The experience spurred his interest in a utility career.

Robert Mallory supervised Alford during his internship. Even though Alford was still in high school, Mallory could see the young man’s potential. “He’s going to be a great employee. He’s got a great work ethic and was a terrific asset to our team.”

Mallory said the intern program benefits the company as well as the interns. They are shown an overview of the company’s operations – from distribution lines to engineering design and how the business operates. They learn how their work contributes to the company’s overall effort.

After interning with BGE in 2017 and 2018, Alford joined the company as a Utility Trainee
After interning with BGE in 2017 and 2018, Alford joined the company as a Utility Trainee

In addition, “These students experience the day to day work. They know what to expect on the ground and can get right to work if they become successful candidates,” Mallory said.

Mallory himself joined BGE immediately out of high school and appreciates the training and encouragement the company offers young employees. And he can relate to his interns who are just starting to transition to the working world.

“I remember one weekend we were working, and the interns were talking about their prom.” The conversation brought back strong memories of high school, friendships – and that exciting and uncertain time before one launches out into the world.

Training and development

Once at the company, BGE’s trainee program supports new employees’ sponge-like desire to learn. Trainees are encouraged to explore the opportunities that can keep their work challenging and rewarding for their entire careers. It’s little wonder that the average employee tenure at BGE is more than 25 years.

From day one, trainees are considered full-time employees, receiving wages, health care and all the other benefits of BGE employment. Trainees not only learn the specific skills, practices and safety culture necessary for their jobs, but they also learn about the company’s operations, culture, and, in the words of Senior Training Specialist Rob Coombs, “unlimited potential.”

Coombs said the essential element for success at BGE is a willingness to learn. Plus, trainees must grasp the essential requirements for any job: “Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. Be dressed and ready for work. And give 110 percent every day. If you do that, you will learn to do your job well and safely,” Coombs said.

Coombs appreciates the value of excellent training, as BGE’s trainee program helped him launch a career after he left the military. He was able to move quickly from line work to a safety program to his present role as a trainer.

After trainees spend classroom timing receiving a company overview, Coombs takes over for the specifics of the lineman’s role: first aid, ergonomics, customer orientation and safety. Over several years, trainees alternate time in classroom and labs with actual field work. Assigned to work with experienced crews, they practice and improve their skills, supported by veteran co-workers who advise them on everything from safety to better tool techniques.

In the meantime, they experience the camaraderie that exemplifies the BGE work environment.

Beyond training

As of March 2021, Alford has moved from his role as trainee to a full-time regular BGE employee.

And as Mallory said, “He’s already doing great things for the company. He has been the spokesperson for the intern program and he’s very active in the safety program. He’s so eager to learn.”

During the first of the Covid-19 shut-downs, employees were confined to the shop rather than getting out in the field. Mallory said of Alford, “It sort of drove him crazy! He was so eager to get in the truck and get back to work.”

As for Alford, he loves the high line work. And he appreciates the teamwork he finds among his co-workers. “We all watch out for each other.”

Alford defines success as making progress. He has already set a goal for his own progress – moving into the crew leader role.