HAMLET — Taylor Wall and Kendall Powell are a pair of interns working at Duke Energy’s Smith Energy Complex while earning their college degrees as part of the company’s Power Careers Program, and while both came on board only three months ago, they agree it is a great opportunity.
Lisa Parrish, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, explained that the program — now in its 12th year — not only prepares students for careers in the energy industry but also assists them financially through the paid internships and scholarships to help them complete their college courses.
In recent years, the program has formed a solid bond with Richmond Community College and its commitment to offering more programs to prepare graduates for jobs in this field.
“Yes, these are paid internships,” Parrish said.
Wall said that during a semester, interns work 20 hours a week for Duke Energy.
“In the summer it goes up to 40 hours,” she said. “The way I found out about it was through my instructor at RCC, Billie Adeimy.”
She said that job security is important, and learning skills that can help students into long-term careers is a good strategy.
“People aren’t going to just stop using energy,” Wall said. “Getting into the company is the hardest part and also the funnest part, because once you get your foot in the door, you know you have a good job. I started out in one area, but I eventually want to get more hands-on. I like programming a lot, sitting in front of a screen and solving problems. That fits my personality best.”
An intern’s first job is not necessarily his or her ultimate destination with Duke Energy, Parrish said.
“We do like to give them opportunities to work at several jobs within the complex,” she said.
Powell supported her statement with the story of how he got his own foot in the door.
“I originally wasn’t selected for an internship,” Powell said. “They later called me back and put in maintenance. I’ve learned a lot by doing this job. Just the experiences you see in and of themselves, especially in maintenance. Some of the lights had their own transformers. I never knew lights had built-in transformers.”
Powell studies electrical engineering at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville and plans to continue working for Duke Energy after he graduates.
Wall, on the other hand, began her RCC studies with plans to major in computer engineering, but later decided to double-major in that and electronics engineering.
“These are not specific to energy generation,” Wall said. “But they still have plenty to do with energy.”
Wall also plans to find her perfect place as part of Duke Energy after graduation.
Parrish said the number of students successfully completing the program in this division is significant.
“From this area we’ve had 10 students enter the program since 2009,” she said. “We have hired seven of those, and they are still employed at Duke Energy. And yes, we are very pleased with the strong relationship we have with not only RCC but community colleges throughout the state.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.