OSWEGO — National Grid partnered with the State University system to offer a first-ever SUNY career fair, welcoming 30 SUNY Oswego students to a half-day program that encouraged future internship candidates and job seekers from a wide variety of majors with a series of “Hey, look us over” events.
Students from SUNY Oswego and SUNY Cortland toured the company’s Learning Center in Liverpool, heard informational talks and took advantage of one-on-one networking with National Grid employees.
“It’s an eye-opener of a business,” said Kariya Buckshot, an Oswego junior human development major. “It can be a dangerous business.”
But she also learned that inherently hazardous jobs such as line technician and gas mechanic are far from the only ones available.
Engineering, marketing, communications, computer science, sustainability, finance, nursing – National Grid employs graduates of them all — and the list goes on, according to Alberto Bianchetti, regional director of customer and communication management for Upstate New York’s predominant electric and gas distribution utility.
The multinational company also has millions of customers in the United States in Long Island, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Gary Morris, director of career services at Oswego, said the college gladly participated with Cortland to pilot a program that intends to build an energy career pipeline with colleges and universities around the 64-campus State University system.
The college’s Office of Career Services helps students explore, identify and successfully compete for careers that match their personal and professional goals.
“SUNY Oswego is fortunate to have participated in the first ‘National Grid – SUNY Career Connections Day’ event,” Morris said. “From law and marketing to political science, business and IT, our students discovered a variety of career paths with this outstanding company, networked with professionals, and learned about the many benefits of working in the energy industry.”
Taylor Clark, a junior marketing major in Oswego’s School of Business, said the day — which included tours of the company’s labs for gas and electrical operations training, as well as the critical, zero-defect environment of the Transmission Control Center — was fascinating.
She could imagine a career for herself at National Grid.
“I wouldn’t necessarily be marketing the business (as it exists), but I’d be interested in marketing to areas that don’t have National Grid yet,” Clark said.
Many of the utility employees who spoke to the students described their own connections with SUNY, either personally or via their children.
Bianchetti said their love for individual SUNY institutions is only part of National Grid’s strong relationship with the system: SUNY campuses are among the utility’s largest customers; there is a wide range of partnerships with colleges and universities, including renewable energy research and development; and National Grid depends on SUNY — increasingly — to provide a pipeline of new interns and employees.
Virginia Limmiatis, lead media relations representative in Central New York, was one of several National Grid employees who said, “I never thought growing up that I’d work for an energy company.”
Yet a number of today’s college students likely will, whether they expect to or not, Limmiatis pointed out: In a National Grid workforce of 16,000 employees in the United States, an estimated 400 retire each year.
The pace likely will speed up. “The company anticipates that approximately 16 percent of its workforce will retire over the next five years,” she said.
Raju “Chief” McMonagle, a junior in SUNY Oswego’s five-year accounting/MBA program, said he came away from the career fair impressed.
“National Grid really is investing in the potential of new hires for a better outcome for themselves and their customers,” McMonagle said. “You pick up the vibe — everyone’s smiling. They really want to represent their company well.”
Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid regional executive director for the Upstate New York Division, spoke to the students of her own path from an English and psychology degree at SUNY’s Stony Brook University through a succession of jobs and into a career of more than 24 years at the utility.
She urged them not to reflexively discount the skills they’ve built at SUNY colleges.
“Jump in with eyes wide open,” she said. “We’re setting the table. We’re inviting all of you in.”