Florida Chapter's Youth Energy Academy

September 27, 2012

 Michael A. Lewis, Sr VP Florida Operations welcomes students

Did you know that nationally, fewer than 10 percent of college-educated minorities choose to enter science and engineering career fields?

It’s a trend that’s baffled recruiters, but Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, is working on some innovative ideas to help change that. Recently, more than 30 Florida employees spent the day sharing their knowledge and skills, discussing the energy industry with future collegians.

The 2-day event included career exploration panel discussions with leaders from Florida Delivery Operations as well as lineworkers, transmission employees, and dispatchers. Additional highlights included a live wire demonstration, a tour of the Winter Garden Operations’ training center, an interactive “Energy 101” lesson, and a conversation about STEM and the importance of it as students continue on in school.

 So why don’t more young African-American students choose the math and science fields?

Michael A. Lewis, Senior Vice President, Florida Delivery Operations and a guest speaker at the event, thinks there are a number of reasons:


  • The energy and utility business isn’t a traditional line of work in the families many of these students come from.  So they don’t see it growing up and, therefore, don’t consider it an option for themselves.


  • Access can be a problem. While students are introduced to basic sciences in elementary school, as students move on through middle and high school, they don’t always get the unique experiences in the sciences that peak their interest.  School budgets are always tight and if students live in a low-income area, the likelihood of them participating in field trips and advance science classes is low.


  • There are not enough mentors helping students both inside and outside of the classroom and teaching students how to be successful in this industry.

That is why African-Americans in Progress (AAP-FL), a legacy Progress Energy employee resource group, collaborated with the Florida Chapter of The American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) to host this first ever Youth Energy Academy. “Not only is this an opportunity for us to give back to our communities, but it is also an opportunity to teach students the value of a career path within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) model,” said Malcolm Barnes, president of The AABE Florida Chapter and a field operations manager for Progress Energy Florida. 

 How does this event match up with the diversity and inclusion goals of the company?  Diversity and inclusion recognizes that a diverse, multicultural workforce makes good business sense and is necessary to support the innovation and high performance required in our aggressive and changing industry.  In order for the new Duke Energy to continue to be a leader in the energy domain, it is imperative we remain competitive in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.

 “I’m impressed by and appreciative of the students’ attentiveness and interest,” said Mr. Lewis. “This effort is exactly what we need to do to engage young people and develop their interest in the energy industry. AABE - FL and AAP-FL is to be commended for taking the initiative to host such an important event.”

Malcolm Barnes

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