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Hoosier Energy creates retraining program for employees

By By ALEX BROWN, Asst. Managing Editor, Inside INdiana Business

BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington-based Hoosier Energy Rural Electric
Cooperative Inc. is working to help its employees skill up as it
prepares to close one of its coal-fired power plants.

The co-op is partnering with Indiana State University to create a
Certificate in Emerging Energy Technology program, which is designed
to retrain employees who are interested in learning the skills needed
to pursue jobs in electric transmission and distribution. Hoosier
Energy is planning to retire its Merom Generating Station in Sullivan
County in 2023.

Chris Blunk, senior vice president of information technology and
corporate services for Hoosier Energy, says the one-year program will
give participants the chance to learn a variety of skills.

"When you look at emerging energy technology and the skill sets that
will be required for more distributed energy and distributed energy
management systems, we were really targeting those skill sets," said
Blunk. "(The program) essentially entails AC and DC circuits and
design, digital computer logic, programmable logic controls and
control systems, industrial electronic current control systems,
technical graphics and then there are labs associated with the program
that will prepare participants to test for their SEC radio license and
also get some exposure to metering."

The program is housed within ISU's College of Technology. It includes
six online courses and a hands-on lab. Hoosier Energy says the skills
learned through the program, such as electric transmission metering,
protection systems and field communications, are in high demand
throughout the utility industry.

Blunk says the employees being affected by the Merom plant's closure
are mainly focused on the generation side of the industry, which is a
different skill set.

"This is really a retraining effort to prepare the employees that are
directly impacted either to transition to other roles within Hoosier
Energy or to be prepared to take a role outside of Hoosier Energy as
the case may be," he said.

Blunk says it was important to the co-op to make sure the affected
employees were given as many options as possible before the Merom
plant closed.

"We have great employees and we are committed to doing everything that
we can to provide them every opportunity to be competitive for, again,
either jobs inside of the company in other areas or prepare them to be
competitive for jobs outside of Hoosier Energy. That is a commitment
our board supported 100%."

Blunk says the program is unique and he has already been contacted by
other utilities wanting to learn more about its creation. He says it
could serve as a model that will pop up more and more in the future.

"This has been a good opportunity for Indiana State as well because
colleges around the nation are seeing a reduction in new freshmen and
they're looking for ways to attract students who may not be in a
position to commit to a four-year degree. So, if they can offer a
certificate program that gives them college credit that helps them
develop a skill setthat's in demand and highly marketable, I think not
only in the utility industry, but I think colleges and university around the 
country will look at a model like this and it could be a way for them
to attract students that otherwise they couldn't attract."

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