Is a Career in the Energy Industry Right for You?

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Career in the Energy Industry
Amair Pralour, a military spouse whose husband is in the Army National Guard, works as an Associate Credit Analyst for Dominion Energy in Cayce, South Carolina. Pralour helps Spanish-speaking customers with questions and provides support to those facing financial issues. (Courtesy Photo)

Creativity is key when looking for career options as a military spouse, but have you considered the energy industry?

It’s much more than climbing light poles and fixing wiring. There's a lot that happens behind the scenes, and as the country finds more ways to be energy-efficient, companies are hiring.

More than 6.7 million Americans are working in the energy sector, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. In that same report, 75% of employers shared their struggle to find qualified workers, and the industry as a whole lacks diversity among its employees.

For employees with experience and skills in a variety of areas, including communications, customer service, finance and marketing, jobs are plentiful, and some employers have pledged to hire veterans and military spouses.

And there is even a program to help you get started.

Troops to Energy Jobs Initiative

Introduced in 2011, Troops to Energy Jobs helps veterans navigate the energy industry. The program was formed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, a nonprofit group of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities, their associations and their unions.

Since then, the initiative has shifted from helping veterans find jobs to working with the companies to recruit, hire and retain them. They then added military spouses to the mix, said Rosa Schmidt, Troops to Energy Jobs director.

Schmidt said military recruiters have shared anecdotally that veterans are finding jobs in the energy industry through the website, which not only raises awareness of the breadth of available jobs, but also directly connects veterans and military spouses with energy companies in the states of interest to them.

"In addition to growth, there is variety," Schmidt said in an interview with Military.com. "The job options within the industry are tremendous. So you can do admin; you can do information, technology, communications, recruitment, HR, finance. You can do technical work, hands-on work, outdoor work, indoor."

Salary, education and training depend on the job, Schmidt said. But for many of the high-demand technical jobs, energy sector salaries are higher than the national average. Training, education and experience factor into the compensation package. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the electric power generation, transmission and distribution sector has an annual median salary of $86,900.

Nikki Foster, the spouse of a recently retired Marine, found the transition to the energy industry easier than she expected. Foster never considered a job in the industry previously but connected with a military recruiter who worked for Dominion Energy -- which services 16 states, including Virginia, where Foster works.

Nikki Foster Energy Career
Nikki Foster, the spouse of a retired service member, works for Dominion Energy in Virginia. (Courtesy photo)

"I've worked in public affairs for almost two decades,’’ Foster said. “And so having that experience translate into the energy industry was really easy. It's the skill set that you're taking; learning the industry is something that's going to come.’’

Now working in human resources, Foster uses the skills from her past employment to continue learning and working, just in a new industry.

Foster describes the energy industry as similar to the military community, as it's filled with people who care and a great network.

"Many of our companies are in multiple states. So for military spouses, the opportunity to say, 'My spouse is going to Jacksonville, North Carolina; can I move closer? Is there an opportunity there?' is still available," Foster said. "And if it's not within the same company, we see employers reaching out to other companies and saying, ‘Do you have an opportunity because this employee is wonderful, has worked here and we want to make sure they're able to transition to move with their spouse.’"

Ready to Get Started?

Schmidt suggests starting with the Troops to Energy Jobs website, which has a skills translator, career coach and job board. An interactive roadmap helps applicants figure out where they fall on the path to a career in the industry.

After exploring and translating skills, potential applicants can look at resources that could be added to their résumé, including industry apprenticeships. When they're ready to apply for jobs, they can find information on connecting with employers and find open jobs.

“We provide a listing with contact information so that veterans and military spouses are not getting lost in a recruiting mailbox but are connecting directly with someone who understands the military culture and what they bring to the job,” Schmidt said. “In addition, we connect veterans and military spouses to energy companies. We often receive résumés from veterans who have a specific question or who are looking for a job in a particular city, and we make sure to connect them with the appropriate military recruiter.”

Companies -- including Portland General Electric in Oregon, New York Power Authority and Nuclear Fuel Services, the Tennessee-based company that provides fuel to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program -- can view your résumé if added to the registration site. The energy industry is looking for qualified candidates just like you.

--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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