Kale Meade of Fallston, N.C., is proud to help Duke Energy keep the power humming in his rural community 40 miles northwest of Charlotte. His other source of pride, well, that’s a bonus.
His son, Josh started work as a Duke Energy learner relay technician on Halloween 2022. He remembers the day because he was so excited at landing the job. Seeing his dad enjoy his work and the relationships he built with teammates inspired Josh.
It was the training he received at Isothermal Community College in Spindale, N.C., that made this legacy story come true.
“This was a good opportunity for my son to develop valuable skills,” Kale Meade said.
Josh Meade has never known life without Duke Energy. His dad started working at the company more than 30 years ago.
“This,” Josh Meade said, “was the perfect scenario for me.”
That perfect scenario came about because Duke Energy supports training programs at community colleges in its service territory in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and the Midwest. That’s part of an overall strategy to fund workforce development programs.
The Duke Energy Foundation has awarded more than $15.8 million to support building a diverse workforce since 2020 and more than $1.4 million in 2022.
Protective relay and control wiring technicians and lineworkers are responsible for operating, troubleshooting and maintaining electric utility substations.
With Duke Energy support, Isothermal Community College created an electric utility track in its Electronics Engineering Technology program. Since it launched in 2017, 30 Isothermal students have graduated from the two-year program, trained to work as protective relay and control wiring technicians.
Steve Hollifield, lead instructor for the Electronics Engineering Technology Program, said the electric utility track aims to train future workers to serve Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. The prospective students appreciate the protective relay and control wiring technician jobs.
“They are high-paying technical jobs,” Hollifield said. “These students will help provide reliable power to the community and maintain and develop the electric grid. That was our goal in starting the program.”
Josh Meade is one of them. He also completed the 10-week lineworker training program at nearby Cleveland Community College in Shelby, N.C. Now he can handle that job if he hears the call.
With Duke Energy’s focus on meeting its net-zero carbon emissions goals, the need for front-line personnel is growing. The company is spreading the word about the competitive wages and benefits that come with these positions.
“Duke Energy is committed to creating access to education and workforce development for people in the communities where we live and work,” said Duke Energy Foundation President Amy Strecker.
Isabel Nieto, manager of Workforce Development based in Lake Mary, Fla., is part of the Duke Energy team promoting lineworker training at community colleges.
These programs, Nieto said, expand the pipeline for the next generation of employees.
“Training makes them a stronger candidate,” she said, and fosters diversity by expanding opportunities. The community college collaboration also helps support what Nieto called “local talent for local jobs.”
Josh Meade, for example, was trained at two community colleges and now serves Duke Energy — all an easy drive from his home.
“They’re performing the work,” Nieto said, “for their neighbors and their families.”