PUD Works to Fill Future Skills Gap

PUD hopes Interns Will Enhance the Skilled Workforce in Years to Come

ummer interns at Northern Wasco County PUD
From left, Charlie Mallon, Adrian Williams, and Christian Cunningham are summer interns at Northern Wasco County PUD. Kathy Ursprung photos

Northern Wasco County has launched a competitive summer internship program and three young men are participating this year, helping with efforts in technology, finance, and engineering.

“Generally speaking, there is a growing skills gap and retiring workforce issue before us,” says Roger Kline, PUD General Manager. “Encouraging STEM-based [science, technology, engineering, and math] exposure early and often will presumably give us a pool of future applicants that are familiar with us, our community, and our industry.”

Christian Cunningham

Christian Cunningham is the youngest of the three interns. He lives in The Dalles and is a high school senior at Horizon Christian School.

He was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and was adopted at the age of 2 and came to live in the United States.

Christian is working in the Integrated Technology (IT) Department.

“I am learning a lot about business-level computer issues and workflow,” he says.

Astrophysics is Christian’s biggest academic interest.

He plans to attend Arizona State University and one day work in a space program.

Programming various computer applications is a hobby of Christians. “One example is a file encryptor,” he says.

Roger says the PUD wasn’t expecting a vast relevant work history or expertise from the interns.

“What we expected and what we found was that all three were eager, interested, and willing to engage from their first day on the job,” Roger says.

“They have been unafraid to ask questions and engage in thoughtful dialogue. There’s nothing like having new energy around the office to keep the rest of us on our toes. It’s a great thing!”

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams is an engineering intern working on the Yard Light to Outdoor Light Conversion.

“[It] will help us track assets more efficiently,” Adrian says.

He is a junior at Oregon State University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He lives in Eugene and hopes one day to work in the automotive industry.

In his free time, he enjoys exploring the outdoors with his girlfriend and dog, as well as working on his car.

He said he has no familial connections to the local area and learned of the internship on Craig’s List.

“I like how willing my co-workers are to explain complex systems and procedures, and how patient they are with me when I ask way too many questions.

Charlie Mallon

Charlie Mallon is interning in the Finance Department, assisting in improving the efficiency of the enterprise business system through testing, improving, and documenting procedures.

Charlie lives in Hood River and graduated from Hood River Valley High School. He is majoring in finance at Oregon State University and minoring in economics.

“I enjoy observing how the different departments of the PUD operate together,” Charlie says.

When he is not working at the PUD, his hobbies include hanging out with friends, swimming, hiking, and watching sports.

Roger sees more in the future for the PUD’s internship program.

“The Board of Directors is very supportive of linking internships with potential scholarships in the future.”
Roger Kline

“Going forward, we’d like to support trades and craft internships as well, in the hopes that they could pivot towards potential pre-apprenticeship opportunities.”

Needs for skilled workers in all areas of the utility and energy industry are growing.

“Technology changes such as smart-homes and a more customer-experience and customer-choice based energy economy also means more opportunities for career decisions,” Roger says. “Just because someone enters the industry as a customer service representative, engineer, line technician or accountant doesn’t mean that is where they need to stay if they don’t wish to. Opportunity is the word for the future—many, many opportunities.”

The PUD wants to be a good community partner and part of that means supporting education and training at all levels, Roger says.

“An educated and skilled community is good for the PUD and our customers.”