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40 P-TECH students complete career-readiness internship with New York Power Authority


Thu, Aug 24th 2023 09:10 pm

Internship program helps diversify future workforce through soft skills development and hands-on technical experience with energy projects

√ View video of final presentations, photos, a TV clip & press release on Buffalo Canals Project 

Forty Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) interns got a head start on their career plans this summer by working alongside New York Power Authority employees on a series of energy projects that will benefit the utility industry. The annual paid internship program – expanded from 28 participants last year – helps students from underserved communities build the skills required to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) after graduation. Many students also earned national certifications in fields such as energy auditing, HVAC maintenance, and operation of unmanned aircraft systems (drones).

Tabitha Griggs, a Niagara County Community College student, whose team studied 10 fixed ladders at the Niagara Power Project and presented a series of recommendations to help meet upcoming federal safety standards, said her internship definitely solidified her career plans.

“It was so exciting to be here and learn so much. I’d go home every night and give my mom a 40-minute TED talk,” she said. “I thought being an intern meant copying and bringing coffee, but working on projects that employees would have done if we weren’t here made it feel like a real job.”

Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll thanked the students for their contributions at a wrap-up event last week where they presented their projects.

“This prestigious P-TECH program is part of our diversity, equity and inclusion plan and is one important way we are supporting and building a workforce that reflects the diverse communities we serve,” he said. “The future of our industry is in good hands. You have a head-start on your goals and careers, and your passion for STEM is good news for NYPA and the state.”

The P-TECH interns, from underserved communities near NYPA generation and transmission assets, spent six weeks working alongside NYPA employees on hands-on technical projects that furthered New York state’s clean energy goals. They also received one-to-one mentorship and participated in weekly financial literacy workshops where they learned about budgeting and investment, culminating in a competitive “stock pitch” presentation. The program is open to high school students and those in community college P-TECH programs, targeting two-year associate degrees in a STEM field. As part of its DEI efforts, NYPA ensures that students of color have more opportunities to join and advance in the clean energy sector.

Interns participated in eight projects in Western New York, Central New York, the Capital region and Southeastern New York:

•Northern Long-Eared Bat Detection. Students learned about the importance of vegetation and ecosystem management under NYPA’s transmission lines. Teams flew drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras to identify and catalog endangered bats as they learned about the importance of ensuring an environment where wildlife can survive.

•Canals Climate Change Modelling. Interns used mapping software to make climate models and determine projections on how climate change will affect the New York State Canal system, and the communities that live along the waterways.

•South East New York Customer Energy Audits. Students learned about lighting and HVAC systems and then applied their learnings to completing inventories and recommending replacement and upgrade plans to make NYPA customer sites more energy efficient.

•Asset Reconciliation. Focusing on cybersecurity, students took inventory lists from a wide variety of IT toolsets and pulled the data into a common platform to identify gaps in coverages that could be remediated.

•Ferguson Electric and Buffalo Maritime Center. Interns shadowed Ferguson Electric’s safety department on several projects including the new Buffalo Bills stadium. They also experienced a technical skill-building opportunity by helping construct a full-sized replica of the Seneca Chief boat that will commemorate the bicentennial of the 1825 inaugural voyage along the Erie Canal.

•CONMED Customer Energy Audit. Students learned about the assessment process and toured the CONMED facility to conduct an energy audit to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing complex. They made recommendations on how the customer could cut costs and be more energy efficient.

•Niagara Fixed Ladder Assessment. Interns learned about the Niagara Power Project and inspected 10 fixed ladders to determine if they would meet upcoming federal safety requirements. A report presented recommended upgrades to ensure a safe work environment and avoid injuries.

•Floatovoltaics. The team visited several ground and rooftop solar installations and looked to find a viable location to host a floating panel system. They determined what type of water bodies would be most suitable, and considered environmental criteria, benefits and costs.

“You will go far in the future,” NYPA Vice President of Environmental Justice Kaela Mainsah told the students. “The education, skills and experience you got this summer will be very important, and your networking and contacts even more so.”

Frederick Walsh, superintendent with the NYC Department of Education, said, “This was an opportunity for students to have real world experiences that inspire them to pursue careers they may not have known of otherwise. We want students to have careers that give them long-term economic stability.”

For more information about NYPA’s P-TECH program, email [email protected] in NYPA’s environmental justice department.

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