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Electric Utility Transmission and Distribution Line Engineering Program

By Peter McKenny


Economic development in the United States depends on a reliable and affordable power supply. The nation will need well educated engineers to design a modern, safe, secure, and reliable power grid for our future needs. An anticipated shortage of qualified engineers has caused considerable concern in many professional circles, and various steps are being taken nationwide to alleviate the potential shortage and ensure the North American power system's reliability, and our world-wide economic competitiveness. To help provide a well-educated and trained workforce which can sustain and modernize the nation's power grid, Gonzaga University's School of Engineering and Applied Science has established a five-course (15-credit hour) Certificate Program in Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Engineering. The program has been specifically designed to provide working utility engineering professionals with on-line access to advanced engineering courses which cover modern design practice with an industry-focused theoretical foundation. A total of twelve courses have been developed to-date and students may select any five in their area of interest for the T&D Certificate. As each course is developed and taught by a team of experienced engineers (from public and private utilities, consultants, and industry suppliers), students are provided a unique opportunity to interact directly with different industry experts over the eight weeks of each course. Course material incorporates advanced aspects of civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering disciplines that apply to power system design and are appropriate for graduate engineers. As such, target students for the certificate program include: (1) recent graduates with a Bachelor of Science Degree in an engineering field (civil, mechanical, electrical, etc.); (2) senior engineers moving from other fields to the utility industry (i.e. paper industry to utility engineering or project management positions); and (3) regular working professionals wishing to update their skills or increase their knowledge of utility engineering design practices and procedures. By providing graduate educational opportunities for the above groups, the T&D Program will help serve a strong industry need for training the next generation of engineers in the cost-effective design, construction, operation, and maintenance of modern electrical transmission and distribution systems. In addition to developing the on-line engineering courses described above, the T&D Program also focused significant efforts towards enhancing the training opportunities available to power system operators in the northwest. These efforts have included working with outside vendors to provide NERC-approved training courses in Gonzaga University's (GU) system operator training facility, support for an accurate system model which can be used in regional blackstart exercises, and the identification of a retired system operator who could provide actual regional training courses. The GU system operator training facility is also being used to recruit young workers, veterans, and various under-represented groups to the utility industry. Over the past three years students from Columbia Gorge Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, Walla Walla Community College, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, and various local high schools have attended short (one-day) system operator training courses free of charge. These collaboration efforts has been extremely well received by both students and industry, and meet T&D Program objectives of strengthening the power industry workforce while bridging the knowledge base across power worker categories, and recruiting new workers to replace a predominantly retirement age workforce. In the past three years the T&D Program has provided over 170 utility engineers with access to advanced engineering courses, been involved in training more than 300 power system operators, and provided well over 500 college and high school students with an experience in running a power system simulator and an exposure to various utility-related professions and craft trades

Topics: Simulators, Power Systems, Training, Shortages, Program Management, Maintenance, Economics, Knowledge Base, Mechanical Engineering, 24 Power Transmission And Distribution, Economic Development, 32 Energy Conservation, Consumption, And Utilization, Construction, Reliability, Design, Consultants, Paper Industry, Distribution, Engineers, Targets, Educational Facilities
Publisher: The Corporation Of Gonzaga University
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.2172/1000951
OAI identifier:
Provided by: UNT Digital Library
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