With an employee population that is soon approaching retirement, the nuclear energy industry must hire approximately 25,000 more workers by 2015. Lacy Kiser, vice president of human resources and administration for Shaw’s Power Group, has been working around-the-clock to find qualified candidates to construct, plan and manage the country’s first newly permitted reactors since 1978. With work under way to build new reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and at SCE&G’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, the projects will create approximately 3,500 construction jobs during peak construction. This means Kiser, who joined Shaw’s Power Group six years ago following a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, has his work cut out for him.
Q: What are your primary responsibilities at Shaw and what is your typical day like?
Kiser: My day-to-day responsibilities include managing a human resources team that supports 17,000 employees in Shaw’s Power Group. My team consists of nearly 110 people across the globe, and we are focused on recruiting and making sure we have the right people in the right places at the right time. No day is ever the same. Most recently, we have focused on recruiting welders and fitters to assist in the heavy construction aspects of the various field projects.
Q: What is it like to be part of large-scale construction projects, like Plant Vogtle and V.C. Summer?
Kiser: It takes an incredible amount of coordination, from the executives to recruiting coordinators all the way to the welders who work on site. We all need to be on the same page in order to be successful. Teamwork and an ability to work together are essential to this job. It’s really exciting to be part of something so large, but it takes an incredible amount of focus to put all these moving pieces together. It presents a very unique challenge, but the project is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve been a part of in my career.
Q: What do large-scale development projects like Plant Vogtle and V.C. Summer mean for the communities where they are located?
Kiser: The thousands of jobs that are being created at these construction sites will have a significant impact on the local economy. The project itself will create approximately 3,500 total construction jobs and roughly 800 permanent operating jobs, which will have a huge economic impact on the community. We also have focused specifically on hiring local residents to help with these projects. Unemployment in some of the communities surrounding the site is nearly 17 percent, and the nuclear energy industry provides jobs to these regions at a time when they need it most.
Q: What type of people are you looking to hire?
Kiser: Students in community colleges and technical programs are large groups on which we focus on closely. Their education and hands-on experience have been beneficial as we look to recruit the next generation of nuclear talent.
At Shaw, we are always looking to hire skilled engineers, construction workers and management talent. Quality control has been a major focus for us recently. We look for potential employees with experience in project controls, cost analysis, and project and construction management.
Q: What skills are required for a job within the nuclear energy industry?
Kiser: Beyond technical skills, the behavioral trait needed in every employee is a questioning attitude.
We seek employees who are able to look at the world and question how things are done. Potential applicants must be willing to step up and re-examine safety components, be willing to speak up and have critical attention to detail.
I also look for those who have flexibility to adapt in changing situations, especially with regulations, and who don’t take shortcuts.
Q: Are there any specific classes or coursework that you would recommend to a college student who wishes to pursue a career in the nuclear energy industry?
Kiser: On the engineering and construction side, recruiters are always looking for employees with technical skills. There are many vocational programs across the country that train people on the skills needed to succeed. Community colleges also have great programs on engineering and management that can be applied to the nuclear energy industry.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in working in the nuclear energy field?
Become very familiar with the nuclear energy industry’s culture of safety. I would learn about what steps the industry is taking to provide safety at all levels while studying past events and lessons learned from them.
Try to become as knowledgeable as you can about nuclear energy. Examine your own skills and experiences. How do they fit? Do you need to go through a certification program to make yourself more attractive to recruiters? Look at the resources available through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). There is tremendous opportunity within the nuclear industry and we are always looking for more talent.
Learn more about the nuclear industry’s work force programs in NEI’s fact sheet.