Observing substations up close can be utterly dizzying with their vast number of oversized electrical components. An array of lightning arresters, air-break switches, transformers, and distribution buses, interconnect in these high-voltage mazes of metal.
Though often hidden from public view, substations play a critical role in our daily lives, enabling electricity to travel from power plants and into our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. There are over 55,000 substations dotting the American landscape, and no two substations are alike.
“You see buildings going up all the time, so we are constantly creating new substations or upgrading existing ones to meet the electricity demand of our customers,” says Jack Walsh, manager, Substation Engineering & Design at National Grid, the Waltham-based energy company serving Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.
This expansion, combined with an aging workforce, has led to an increased demand for electrical designers who design these complex systems on a computer screen long before breaking ground at a construction site. Designers will get a technical scope document from an engineer, and be responsible for taking that on paper and putting it into drawings and schematics for a precise and safe installation.
“We are looking for people with a good technical background and a strong willingness to learn.” — Jack Walsh, National Grid
“We do our job so electricians can do their job,” said Walsh. “It’s very skilled, and the wiring end is very detailed. There are underground cables, overhead lines, control lines. We are looking for people with a good technical background and a strong willingness to learn.”
Among those riding this current of career opportunity at National Grid include BFIT grads John Anzivino, Class of 1973, Rafael Soto, Class of 2009, and Kevin Bouche, Class of 2017. While they attended BFIT at different time periods, these grads were equipped with the same combination of technical and non-technical skills that employers of yesteryear and today demand. Each graduate says they have also benefitted from the college’s industry connections, small classes, and hands-on approach to teaching.
As a teenager, Anzivino worked over the summers for his father, a self-employed electrician with residential, commercial and industrial clients. Since a young age, Anzivino longed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an electrician. His brother, who had graduated four years earlier from what was then Franklin Technical Institute, recommended he attend the college.
“I started working the Monday after graduation at an electrical company. They interviewed me right on campus,” recalls Anzivino, who joined National Grid in 1999 and is now one of a handful of lead designers. “At that time, Franklin had a manual drafting course. Today all we use is CAD, but drafting helped me learn spatial relationships. At Franklin, we also learned circuitry, AC and DC, wiring, and how to read schematics.”
At the age of 47, Anzivino went back to college to pursue his dream of earning a bachelor’s degree. Tapping into National Grid’s generous tuition reimbursement benefit over the years, he ultimately earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Lesley University. “It’s something I’ve always said I wanted to do,” he said. “It worked out well. They took every credit from Franklin.”
Graduating from Brighton High, Soto viewed BFIT as a gateway to a solid industry with plentiful jobs. He joined National Grid in 2013 and now serves as primary designer, using Microstation and CAD to design substations. According to Soto, the college equipped him with the necessary “soft skills” such as communications and project management to work with highly-trained engineers, designers, builders, and managers.
“We all sit down and brainstorm ideas and come up with a course of action,” Soto said. “BFIT helped me with my writing and professionalism skills. You could be sitting in a meeting with a vice president. You have to come across knowing you know what you do.”
At first, 27-year-old Bouche of Barnstable, Mass. was keen on becoming an electrician like his father. Yet, once exposed to electrical design, he is now vying to join this growing field. Bouche just wrapped up a paid internship program at National Grid, learning hands-on from their experienced team of designers. He will be graduating from BFIT this year with an Associate of Science in Electrical Technology, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college.
“When my parents found out I wanted to go into electrical, they said ‘if you’re serious, you have to go to school,’” said Bouche, who was recently featured on NECN's CEO Corner. “We researched BFIT and found it to be affordable. Now that I have been exposed to this, it opened my eyes to the utility industry. In one year, it has transformed my life.”
According to Walsh, the utility industry is ripe with job opportunities for those who want to be exposed to different facets of the electrical industry. “This industry offers a wealth of opportunities you might not expect,” he said. “Here, you can start as a designer, and then branch out into other areas such as gas, solar, controls, and construction.”
Click here to view this special NECN news report on BFIT's degree programs that prepare people for high-demand jobs. Hear from our college president as well as an Electrical Technology student who is thriving at National Grid.
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