Training program targets experiential learning for power engineering fields

Participating in training programs, such as Eaton’s program for consulting engineers,creates professional development and application training for emerging engineers.

By Mike Nowicki, PE, SmithGroupJJR, Detroit, MI March 20, 2018

With 50% of the power industry’s talent being eligible for retirement, a great amount of power systems knowledge will soon be leaving the industry. As more senior engineers retire and less experienced engineers enter the workforce, it is critical for many established companies to develop relationships with a new generation of design engineers and power consultants.

Training programs for young professionals

Training programs, such as Eaton’s consultant program for entry-level engineers, can offer a unique educational opportunity for early career design engineers for power systems and demonstrate the commitment market leaders have made toward quickly bridging this knowledge gap. Eaton, for example, invests in innovative programs that support bringing critical industry knowledge to emerging engineers by engaging these professionals as they enter the field and create new career paths that can better meet contemporary power challenges.

The Eaton training program is a 2-day, hands-on, application training program that is designed to cultivate long-term relationships. On an annual basis, Eaton invites participants who are early-career design engineers, currently employed with an electrical consulting firm.

The training program combines conventional classroom sessions with on-the-job activities including group demonstrations, calculations, and interactive games. The program’s coursework is based on the combined knowledge of dozens of application engineers and power distribution experts. The curriculum primarily addresses power systems design and is based on Eaton’s Consulting Application Guide (CAG), now in its 15th edition. Major topics range from system analysis and 3-phase power calculations to power quality, load-flow analysis, and data center design.

Goals for engineering training programs

The high-level training goals for participants in Eaton’s program include:

  • Provide practical training that helps early career engineers better understand how their designs are implemented in actual physical hardware.
  • Educate participants on power system design basics that are typically not covered in college electrical engineering courses.
  • Provide guidelines and knowledge not generally found in textbooks through practice calculations and with real equipment.

During the program, participants gain direct, personal experience of electrical systems in the interactive training environment of Eaton’s Experience Centers. This exposure provides greater context for the real-life needs, core challenges, and equipment solutions available today, as well as the types of questions that come up in applying these solutions to practical scenarios.

Most students learn this theory in a college classroom, but with a hands-on program, participants can actually see how it all ties together in a working system.

The program ensures that all interactions and social time are specifically designed to make participants the focus of attention. This approach aims to build understanding, foster confidence, and expand the potential of each participant as an emerging leader and expert.

The attention received while in the program is not the norm for young professional engineers. Many are more accustomed to taking a “back-seat” position while in the presence of the senior engineers within their firms. Participants appreciate the opportunity to interact with personnel within the engineering firm and their local peers in a social setting.

The Eaton program’s ongoing learning component further assures its participants’ success. The consulting engineers are invited back to one of Eaton’s Experience Centers every year, allowing the Eaton team to receive feedback from the program’s graduates about their achievements and concerns.

One such reunion was recently hosted at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center (PSEC) in Warrendale, Pa. (near Pittsburgh). Eight graduates of the 2009 Eaton training program, who are now employed by electrical consulting firms in Michigan, attended.

Over a 3-day reunion event, the graduates were interviewed about how the program helped them become better engineers and what they learned that could be readily applied in their current professions.

Eaton’s 2009 training program reunion participants included: Jonathan French, PE, Electrical Department vice president; DiClemente Siegel Design; Mike Wysocki, electrical engineer, Harley Ellis Devereaux; Matthew Beck, electrical estimator, Hartzel & Buehler; Lauren Ryzyi, project engineer at Sidock Group, Inc.; Andrew Varilone, PE, electrical engineer at SmithGroupJJR; Mike Nowicki, PE, electrical discipline leader at SmithGroupJJR; Scott Peck, PE, electrical engineer at Peter Basso Associates; and Chris Kennedy, PE, power systems engineer at Eaton.

The following are insights from participants in the Eaton consultant training program:

Q: How has your career evolved since the last time you visited Eaton’sExperience Center in Pittsburgh?

Scott Peck: The first time I was here, I held more of a support role with a little bit of leadership; now that has reversed and I am primarily in a leadership role with lots of people supporting me.

Mike Nowicki: I’ve also gone from project engineering to management. Plus, after attaining my PE license, I joined Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan as an adjunct professor. I teach two classes every year: Fundamentals of Power Distribution Systems (for college seniors) and Analysis of Power Distribution Systems (for graduate students).

I love bringing my graduate-level architectural engineering (AE) students to the Eaton Experience Center in Pittsburgh each year. There’s so much cool equipment here and they love it! The feedback is always good. And I am passionate about sharing the same learning experiences that I’ve received with all of my students.

Q: What did you learn in the Eatonprogram that you find most helpful in your day-to-day career? Do you recall insights after your first training program reunion visit?

Andrew Varilone: The biggest thing for me was the Eaton Experience Center. Through the facility, we really got to know, touch, and feel the equipment. Many of us might not have had the same opportunities in the field for live, specialized testing and monitoring. The setup of the Eaton Experience Center in Pittsburgh lets you see exactly what’s going on. What you see in the lab really stays with you.

Nowicki: The first trip was a good exposure to all the products available and what applications that Eaton works with; that gave me a good starting basis for electrical work. When I came back the first time, it was interesting. But now, several return visits later, I know so much more and I really get a lot more out of it. I like to say that I teach the theory in my courses, but my students hear it differently in the talks given at the Eaton Experience Center. Then, when they get to see it and work with the equipment directly, it shifts their understanding again.

Lauren Ryzyi: You get to see how the equipment works in real life. Once you start working in the field, all the things you were exposed to start to make more sense.

Q: How has Eaton supported you since you attended its training program? Is there something that you learned that really stands out?

Varilone: The relationship between us as participants and the Eaton application engineers and local Eaton representatives is strong. They email us about events, make office visits, and so much more. That really stands out compared to other manufacturers; it’s an extra level of service.

Nowicki: Engagement with the program and the Eaton Experience Center help facilitate recruiting and talent retention for our companies. When I was in school, the focus was on different electrical topics—mostly automotive and electronics—but not power systems design. These are the types of engineers we need today—the ones who know how to design building electrical systems. The electrical consulting firms are not producing products; we’re just offering services. So, people are our greatest asset.

Additionally, Eaton is facilitating a variety of training partnerships to train AEs across the country. Currently, there might be 20 AE programs nationally (Penn State’s is probably the most well-known.) The Eaton consultant training programs and classes simply did not exist before in any form; some of us are writing curriculum from scratch, using our training notes as well as other resources.

Q: Do you stay in touch with the other consultants from your class?

Ryzyi: Yes! Some of us worked together at the same company right after the program.

Nowicki: We see each other a lot at other events around town. It’s been helpful for building and maintaining relationships with everyone else in the industry. We are a small, close-knit industry; we tend to run into each other a lot.

Q: What advice would you give a young engineer who might attend an upcoming Eaton consultant training?

Scott Peck: Ask a lot of questions.

Lauren Ryzyi: There is no dumb question to ask.Just ask. Because if I am unsure of the answer as well, I either know someone who knows the answer or we can work together to come up with the solution.This is beneficial for everyone on the team.

Dan Carnovale: Show me and I will forget. Show me again and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.

Lauren Ryzyi: In Eaton’s training program for young consulting engineers, you’ll learn in literally 2 days what you might learn over the next 10 years. You won’t learn everything, of course; but you get a good working sense of what it’s like in the industry.Q: Any other advice or thoughts to mention?

Varilone: It’s also so important for young engineers, when picking a place to work, to understand the companies’ culture for learning. Where you work can have a huge impact on how quickly you progress in your learning and career. If your company supports you with programs and mentors, you can start building on that. If you have a lot of smart people around you, you’ll start picking it up bit by bit. This program really helps you to jump-start that. It helps you to generate more questions. We all want to be successful and have our projects go well. But we really need more engineers in the world to solve our current problems. Sure, sometimes we’re competing for work; but in the grand scheme of things, we’re all moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, we really need each other. We have to support each other.

Nowicki: There are always going to be good technologies and products coming out. The Eaton consultant training program is an accumulation of teaching us about the products and letting us see things in action. If you’re just coming out of college, you should think about this: The biggest thing you need to be is a life-long learner. School stops, but learning never does. In fact, when you graduate, that’s where it really takes off! You begin to realize that a lot of what you’ve learned doesn’t really apply to what you’ll do, but it does give you the foundation. If you pay close attention, you can make it all integrate together.

Eaton’s Dan Carnovale, Doug Dillie, Dave Loucks, and Bri Groden oversee the company’s consultant training program. Learn more about the program here: