Sb 540 Is “a Fix Looking for a Problem”

by Lila A. Jaber

With the unveiling of his final budget proposal, Gov. Rick Scott is aiming to restore $30 million previously cut from the Florida College System, along with adding a $30 million increase. This effort not only highlights his support of higher education, it is a tip of the hat to the contributions from our state college system to Florida’s economic strength.

So it comes as a surprise that SB 540 — “Community College Competitiveness Act of 2018” — is up for hearing once again. The bill proposes changes to a college system that works in support of Florida’s nontraditional students and technical workforce.

As one requirement, SB 540 asks our state colleges to graduate students within two years to avoid any “duplication” of the mission being served by state universities. Data collected by the Florida DOE and Board of Governors, however, tells a different story.

All our state colleges serve Floridians by offering high-quality, low-cost options to students who need more flexibility than what the state university system might be able to provide. In a March 2015 analysis of data provided by DOE, the Board of Governors and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability — the research arm of the Florida Legislature — profiled the typical students served by state colleges and universities.

The diversity of options and affordability offered by state colleges attracts students of or above the age of 25 for every three out of four students. Contrast with 73 percent of upper-division university students being under the age of 25 in Florida state universities.

The majority of state college students are enrolled part-time, employed full-time, and eligible for need-based grants, returning to school to gain additional, targeted job skills. The data appears to indicate that these students take longer than two years to complete an associate’s degree as a direct result of their part-time status.

Equally important: The flexibility and affordability of programs at state colleges has in no way deterred attendance rates at Florida’s state universities. In fact, it appears that state university enrollments have increased by 54.5 percent since state colleges began offering baccalaureate degrees.

With all considered, SB 540 emerges as a bill that misses the point. While the state college system leaves the rate of state university enrollments relatively untouched, its positive impact on a different end is clearly visible. It provides support not only to Florida’s nontraditional students, but to its economy, thereby bridging the gap in STEM education.

In early 2016, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity identified 180+ unique STEM career paths in our state, the majority of which can be supported by lower-cost, job-oriented engineering and technical degree programs.

I urge the Legislature to continue to honor the contributions of our state college system by voting against these bills.

A True Commitment to Utility Service

by Lila A. Jaber

It is refreshing to see the many ways the energy industry’s commitment to service manifests itself, including in the form of educational opportunities for those eager to join the utility workforce.

At the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) Florida Chapter meeting a couple of weeks ago, I met William “Bill” Bosch with the Florida Campus of the Northwest Lineman College. He spoke about the number of ways the College facilitates funding opportunities for prospective students and the training the College affords young people to work in the energy industry. Not long after, I heard the news that the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) board of directors established an electrical lineworker scholarship in honor of its former chairman, Reginald Hardee. The annual scholarship will fund a nine-month internship and is a tremendous opportunity for all graduating seniors interested in entering the electric utility industry.

As energy charges forward to find increasingly effective ways of serving the needs of our neighborhoods, there is a similarly ever-increasing need for skilled professionals in the industry. Many are stepping forward to help fulfill this need. I encourage you to stay updated on this upward trend and get engaged however possible, whether it is by being sponsors of such initiatives, benefiting from these efforts as part of our up-and-coming workforce, or finding your own ways to support the momentum.

Thank a Lineworker

by Lila A. Jaber

Amidst the post-Irma “tweet storm,” there was a visual that made me pause: two lineworkers from Gulf Power, a Florida Panhandle utility, descending a power pole after replacing a transformer in a St. Augustine neighborhood outside Gulf Power’s service area. Having traveled to that area to provide extra support, the utility team lead expressed his group’s eagerness in helping the residents in any way possible to “get their life back to normal.”

His sincerity made me think of all the lineworkers whom I have had the privilege of meeting over the years. What each of them had in common is a strong commitment to service. At no time has that commitment shone brighter than when we weathered the storm together in recent days.

Hurricane Irma ravaged our state, stealing power from the majority of us. Our lineworkers – as prepared as they could be to handle the worst-case scenario – faced what The Washington Post rightly dubbed a “Herculean task” in getting our neighborhoods restored and returned to routine. As always when duty calls, these men and women left their own families behind in the wake of the storm to help families like yours and mine. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with paramedics, firefighters, police and the like, their dedication during and in the days since Irma has renewed the dialogue on how lineworkers, too, should be designated as “first responders.”

Yet, despite all their preparation, sacrifice and grueling shifts, the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has seen the rise of another kind of surge. Sadly, some who benefit from these lineworkers’ services are now critical of the pace of restoration. The task of restoring power is not as quick and certainly not as simple as one might think when the issue is spread over such a large area so dense with trees and power lines that serve as hosts for electricity, telephone and cable. As they work to support the needs of nearly 20 million Floridians, it is important that we extend our willingness to learn, understand, and unite with these dedicated professionals in solidarity as they do what they do best: supporting each and every one of us.

It is easy to overlook our lineworkers’ passion as we go about our lives as usual in the comfort of our homes and workplaces. But it is times like these when we must recognize the comforts they forgo to support us in living our daily lives. These hardworking people deserve all the grace and compassion of our Southern hospitality.

To them, I say thank you. #ThankALineWorker

A Moment to Say Hello and Share Some News

by Lila A. Jaber

I write in the hope that you’ve safely weathered the storm. To those amongst us who are part of the power restoration process, thank you for all that you do on our behalf!

Following another engaging Forum this past summer, I wanted to share just some of the latest successes in our #FLWomenInEnergy community. I’d like to congratulate the following individuals who, through their tremendous achievements, exemplify the strength that is sure to propel the energy industry forward for years to come.

• Pamela Rauch, Vice President of External Affairs and Economic Development for Florida Power & Light Company, has received the “Leading Change” award from the GCI Worldwide Corporation. This award recognizes Ms. Rauch as an extraordinary woman leader who is “the premiere example of the impact that one woman leading change can make in the community.”

• Xia Liu, the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Gulf Power, has been promoted to a new role as Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Treasurer of Georgia Power. Ms. Liu has served in leadership positions of increasing responsibility throughout her career in energy, earning well-deserved placements on the Business to Business magazine’s 2012 “Women of Excellence in Atlanta” list and the Georgia Diversity Council’s 2013 “Most Powerful and Influential Women” list.

• Amy Zubaly was named Executive Director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA). In a statement on the FMEA website, Clay Lindstrom, FMEA President and Fort Pierce Utilities Authority General Manager, remarked, “As we celebrate our 75th anniversary and rich history, it’s fitting that Amy – the first woman to serve as the association’s executive director – lead us into the future.” He went on to commend Ms. Zubaly’s long record of service as well as in-depth understanding of issues important to FMEA members.

• Cari Coats and Karen Dee, Co-Founders and Managing Partners of the Accendo Leadership Advisory Group, have launched the LEADForward Roundtables initiative to help accelerate the leadership development of promising women. LEADForward Roundtables are peer support groups comprised of up to 15 high potential female leaders, all at a similar professional stage. Ms. Coats and Ms. Dee, both accomplished C-suite leaders and certified executive coaches, lead each roundtable as well as provide individual coaching in a great service to our community. Please click to learn more about the initiative and access the application.

Please continue to share your accomplishments and updates with FWELF as we move forward to inspire, educate, and motivate. As we look to the upcoming year, Gunster Law Firm, in partnership with our title sponsor, Gulf Power, and all of our sponsors, has begun preparations for the 2018 Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum.

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and continue to check this website for updates.