By Chris Beam
President and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power
“Be Prepared” is a motto that we often talk about in my service with the Boy Scouts’ Buckskin Council, and it’s certainly one we live by at Appalachian Power. That’s why, when Appalachian Power was approached by The Education Alliance to be one of the first businesses involved in the WV Ready Summer Internship pilot, I jumped at the opportunity. We all agree that the world is changing, and we want our students to be ready for success.
The portrait of a WV Ready Graduate outlines the knowledge and skills students need to be successful, and the WV Ready Internship Program brings that vision to life by providing a four-week, paid summer internship opportunity for rising high school juniors and seniors at West Virginia businesses.
Ensuring our students are West Virginia Ready is more important now than ever. Over half of all employees at my company will be eligible for retirement within five years. With all aspects of Appalachian Power’s work, from energy production to transmission and distribution, we need students who are ready and prepared to step into the future workplace.
Adding to this complexity, the skills that today’s graduates need to thrive in the workplace have evolved significantly over the past 20 years. Our company, like most West Virginia employers, is working hard to maximize our efficiency and provide quality customer service through technology and innovation. To enable this, we’ve found that we need well-rounded employees with both technical skills and life skills, such as communication, strong work ethic and problem-solving skills. These skills are most needed in today’s changing economy and require a renewed focus.
The West Virginia Ready Summer Internship program already has made a significant impact at Appalachian Power. The internship program helped cultivate students’ passions and dreams by providing them with real-world learning experience. At the same time, students developed important life skills with the help of workplace mentors and training provided by the Alliance.
The interns began the program without much prior knowledge of available career opportunities or the skills needed to advance. Throughout the summer, students were able to update their impressions of the industry and learn important life skills along with job skills.
The experience was not one-sided. Our team also benefited from the fresh ideas and perspectives the interns brought to their work. After a tornado struck Charleston in June, the interns worked with our employees to quickly solve problems and identify solutions that would restore power to our communities. We watched as they applied problem-solving skills to tackle difficult challenges. The difference between the interns hired in May and the ones who gave their final presentation in July was impressive. They had learned to be prepared. They were West Virginia Ready.
At the end of the day, we at Appalachian Power and I, personally, are committed to helping prepare West Virginia Ready Graduates. I strongly believe the WV Ready Internship Program is one of the best ways for businesses like mine to cultivate young people who are not just “career-ready” but also “life-ready” (to learn more visit WVGraduate.com). I encourage other businesses to join me in partnerships that help students “Be Prepared” and become West Virginia Ready Graduates.
— Chris Beam is president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power, serving approximately 1 million customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.