PENSACOLA, Fla. – Working on power lines, operating a construction shovel, and checking out an R-44 helicopter were just a few of the activities available to hundreds of students at Pensacola State College’s Worlds of Possibilities Career Expo earlier this month.
An estimated 2,500 fourth through twelfth grade, from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties visited the Career Expo recently where businesses and vendors provided hands-on activities for the students to experience various careers.
Kristie Kelley, Gulf Power’s Workforce Development coordinator, helps to organize the event with Pensacola State College.
“This event shows students multiple avenues they can take after graduation. In the World of Energy, we cover everything from power generation, to transmission and distribution, as well as accounting, marketing and engineering to demonstrate to students the variety of positions an energy company can offer them in the future,” Kelly said.
Because Gulf Power is always looking to recruit new lineworkers and engineers to help serve its 450,000 customers across Northwest Florida, the company participated as the Platinum sponsor of the Worlds of Possibilities event this year. Other sponsors included Florida West, Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council, Aerotek, and Navy Federal Credit Union.
Gulf Power’s World of Energy included volunteers from the energy company who exhibited a variety of career positions. Lineworkers demonstrated what’s it’s like to work on a non-live power line and allowed students to help using a practice power line and pole. Students were also invited to practice operating an electric switchboard to showcase how a lineman or engineer would work to restore power, moving electricity throughout a city or neighborhood.
Matthew Leak, Distribution Protection and Controls engineer for Gulf Power was one of 40 Gulf Power employees who volunteered to attend the event.
“We really need to try and reach these students early. We’re trying to make them think, ‘I can be an engineer, or I can be a lineman.’ We also want to show them the importance of math and science because it’s so easy to get turned off by those subjects early on.”
Other sponsors that contributed to the World of Energy included Power South, Escambia River Electric Cooperative, Pensacola Energy, Central Gulf Industrial Alliance and the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers.
In other Expo activities, the World of Construction showed off the energy-efficient tiny house built by PSC students as well as allowing student to operate construction equipment. Courtesy of Ferguson Airport, the World of Aviation featured an R-44 helicopter with pilots on site to talk with students about careers and opportunities in aviation.
Zack Lawrence, a junior at West Florida High School, attended the World of Energy for the first time this year.
“This event gives you lots of opportunities and lots of views into different areas of work. I like the field of energy production, and would love to work at the solar power plant that Gulf Power is building on Saufley Field, or any other renewable energy opportunity.”
Brandon Sellers, a Gulf Power Distribution Planning engineer, also volunteered to work the event because of his passion for inspiring younger students.
“I fell in love with electronics in the eighth grade through the Technology Student Association, and I think if you can reach students at the foundational level then they can go so much farther in the field rather than if they get a late start. That’s our overall goal,” he said.
“If you can show them they can do this and help give them a dream, then they can have something to shoot for.”