Back in the early 2000s, I had a big problem.

I was the Senior Vice President at National Grid. Power systems is a dynamic field, and advanced knowledge is critical. We needed engineers with graduate-level education in power, but they were hard to find. The company was faced with the tough question: What can you do when the engineers you need don’t exist?

In the end, the answer was simple: you make them. 

National Grid already had a relationship with WPI Corporate & Professional Education. I told CPE about our struggle to find qualified engineers, and they went to work creating a graduate-level certificate program in Power Systems, designed especially for our workforce’s needs. This focused, tailored program made a world of difference. What started as a group of ten to twelve students grew through the years to over 100 students, and the partnership continues to this day.

When I retired from National Grid and moved to VELCO, I saw the same problem. This time, I knew who to call. Rutland, Vermont, is far from any technical university that might be able to properly educate our team. WPI CPE created a 100% online program for our engineers that greatly improved their technical capabilities and increased their exposure to specialties within power systems. The ability for our employees to take such cutting-edge courses remotely has been fantastic.

I can’t say enough good things about the work CPE does. Instead of learning something over five years on the job, our engineers are learning high-level concepts and skills at an accelerated rate through more technical exposure. And thanks to the variety of courses within the program, they’re also learning about the financial and managerial sides of power systems, making them well-rounded, adaptable members of our team.

CPE’s corporate programs aren’t just great for productivity and innovation. Our studies have shown that offering advanced education to our workforce instills confidence and promotes loyalty and retention. When employees feel more appreciated, connected, and empowered, they stay put. Plus, graduate programs are a great selling-point for recruiting top-notch new talent. VELCO has seen such positive results that we’ve even started some Electrical & Computer Engineering courses and have other plans for expanding our partnership on the horizon.

If you can’t find good engineers, start making them. And WPI is the place to do it.

Chris_Root_photoAbout the Author: Chris Root

Chris Root is the Chief Operating Officer for Vermont Electric Power Company in Rutland, VT. He has over thirty years of experience in utility operations and engineering leadership. In the past, he was the Senior Vice President of Network Strategy at National Grid USA. He holds a Master of Engineering in Electric Power Engineering, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He is currently the elected Treasurer of the IEEE Power and Energy Society and a member of the North American Transmission Forum Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee of the US National CIGRE Committee. In 2009, he received the Outstanding Engineering Award from the Boston chapter of the Power and Energy Society.

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