July 28, 2008

Students Flip Switch on Future Careers in Amarillo, Texas

By Hayley Cox, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas

Jul. 27--Matt Bevers is only 17, but he knows more about power plants than most people in Amarillo.

The Amarillo High senior is interning this summer with Xcel Energy to get ahead on his future career.

This is the first year for the job shadow program at Xcel, which took in eight juniors and seniors from local schools.

One of the community's biggest problems is losing young people to jobs elsewhere, Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said. The internships focus on introducing high school students to employment opportunities in Amarillo.

"I think students don't realize there are good jobs available that don't require a college education," Reeves said. "We need productive citizens."

The internship will also help supply Xcel with future workers to replace a retiring baby boomer generation. The average age of the work force is 48.

"We're depending on this new bunch of young adults," Reeves said.

Xcel Energy developed the program in partnership with LeAnn Estep, Amarillo Independent School District's director of Career and Technical Education, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 602. Mark Mechenbier, manager of maintenance, said he hopes the program will bring in more students next year.

Bevers has two weeks left in his 10-week internship, where he rotated through different departments at the Harrington Station.

"There's a whole lot to learn," Bevers said of his first internship. "I've been told a lot more than I can remember. I try -- I take notes."

He spent time with the boilers, electricians, technicians, welders and even spent a week with water treatment at the Nichols Station.

"A lot of people when they turn on a light switch, they don't know what goes on behind the scenes," Mechenbier said. "Now Matt has a good sense."

Bevers enjoys welding the most, even though it takes a lot of math.

"I like fixing what's broke," Bevers said.

After graduation, he hopes to get an apprenticeship at Xcel.

"I've always said this is what I wanted to do, but I didn't really know anything about it," Bevers said. "But now that I've gotten the feel for it, I want to do it more."

Part of his motivation comes from his father, who was an electrician before his death several years ago.

Two of Bevers' uncles also worked as electricians.

"Everyone in my family is really proud of me," Bevers said. "It's really nice."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a yearlong Celebrate Education series of monthly articles about Amarillo employers who are helping others receive an education or advanced training. Articles will appear the last Sunday of the month in the Amarillo Globe-News. To submit a business or employer for consideration, e-mail [email protected]


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