With an aging workforce, Duke Energy Corp. finds itself in a precarious position.
The primary electrical power provider for most of central and southern Indiana, Duke Energy is the first line of defense when residents are left in the dark after storms and other natural disasters, such as the tornado that shredded parts of Kokomo in November.
The average age of the line technicians who service those needs varies between 50 and 55 years, the company recently told the Wall Street Journal.
Along with that, Duke requires a four-year apprenticeship before employees are considered to have a full mastery of the ins and outs of power line repair.
Enduring an influx of retirements before it's able to restock its work force with field-ready technicians is a genuine concern.
In a proactive effort, Duke has set up job fairs, such as the one Tuesday in Kokomo at the Ivy Tech Event and Conference Center, to disseminate information to the public regarding line technician careers. The company hopes to add 80 jobs in Indiana over its 30 districts, and Ivy Tech fielded roughly 500 inquiries about Duke Energy's Tuesday event.
Duke previously conducted jobs fairs in Indiana at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration in Indianapolis on July 17, in Terre Haute on July 21 and in Vincennes and Sellersburg on Tuesday.
Remaining fairs are scheduled for Wednesday night in Bloomington and Thursday afternoon in Columbus.
"It's not really a type of job you can expect to come in and get hired off the street because you're talking about energized power lines. I did it for 35 years," shift supervisor Darnell Smith told the Kokomo Tribune. A Kokomo resident, Smith covers 10 districts in northern Indiana, spearheading response and energy restoration efforts.
"There aren't [line technician] jobs being offered. But, when this window of opportunity opens, we want to make sure we have a talent pool that's ready to come in."
With modern-day job applications moving more and more to an Internet-based system, information sessions such as Tuesday's help potential future employers, such as Duke, to put names to faces and better evaluate a potential employee's compatibility.
Smith assisted in the information-exchanging process Tuesday, and said he saw a wide variety of people come in to learn about what Duke has to offer as an employer.
"I've seen people walk through here who have an established history in a workplace," he said, "and I don't know if they're currently employed or not, but I've seen a wide range of ages. I would say (Duke) is very secure. I'm going on my 37th year."
Travis O'Hearn, 22, recently moved to Kokomo from Florida to be closer to family. Having spent the majority of his employment tenure in the food industry as a cook, the prospect of working in a field such as the one Duke is involved in was highly appealing.
"It would be a career where you aren't constantly looking for a job," O'Hearn said. "Honestly, I enjoy cooking tremendously, but I just want to better provide for my family. People my age are looking for something that can set them up for life money-wise."