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Power to the people

Hydro Ottawa won won Canada’s Top Youth Employer award for the fourth year in a row with help from Algonquin graduates.

Hydro Ottawa has 638 employees, 16 per cent of which represent youth under the age of 30. The local energy company has hired over 20 college graduates over the past four years for various roles such as line person and underground technicians, which are part of the youth workforce.

“It’s a real feather in our cap; we are real proud that this is our fourth year winning,” said Peter Bishop, the supervisor for Algonquin and apprenticeship programs. The wildly successful partnership between the college and Hydro Ottawa has also won the Ontario Business Achievement Award for best training partnership.

“They get the best training possible,” said Ken Jessome, the coordinator for the powerline technician program at the Woodroffe campus. “Without Hydro Ottawa, we couldn’t do it. Hydro Ottawa benefits as well, as they have two years to train the students before hiring them.”

Jessome and Bishop believe the power line technician program is like a two-year interview with students which helps them demonstrate their aptitudes and skills in the field. The program follows an apprenticeship model.

“The biggest benefit is the way the students train; they are almost working with us from the start,” said Bishop.

The program sees close to 500 applications a year, 48 of which are chosen to study in the program. The students who apply are ranked by aptitudes in math and English. However, the college is planning to implement mechanical aptitude tests to accept the right kinds of students.

Hydro Ottawa expects 37 per cent of its current workforce will retire in the next 10 years.

“If we keep hiring Algonquin students, by that time, they will make up the majority of our youth task force,” said Bishop. “We gain productivity by hiring Algonquin graduates; they are more valuable.”

The popularity and retention rate in the program continues to increase.

The amount of seats available in the program rose from 32 to 48 over the past year, and the program has now surpassed a total of 100 graduates since the partnership began in 2011.

“It’s been wonderful — the students that come in stick around,” Jessome said. “It’s all about teamwork.”

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