Public utilities management is a field with an abundance of well-paying jobs and a soon-to-be-crucial deficit of managerial and technological staff. Utilities are major employers in Connecticut and nationwide; they provide approximately 10 percent of all job opportunities in the state, or about 5,000 workers, according to the Department of Labor. Of that percentage, nearly one-third of the workforce are eligible to retire within five years. The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, customer service, and finance and quality assurance. The average salaries range between $55,600 and $75,833.
Southern is one of just a few colleges in the United States equipped to prepare the next generation of industry leadership. The university has created a pathway for students to receive the education necessary to fill these projected openings: a specialization in public utilities management within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration. A substantial amount of scholarship money is available to students who enroll in Southern’s new program: annually renewable scholarships of $4,000 per year will be available for full-time students and $2,000 for part-time students, thanks to support from the Regional Water Authority (RWA) and Avangrid, a leading sustainable energy company. Students may also transfer to Southern’s program after earning a certificate or associate degree in public utilities management at nearby Gateway Community College.
The pathway was developed in close consultation with many of the state’s utilities including the RWA, The Metropolitan District, United Illuminating, and Eversource. A public utility management leadership advisory group comprised of top officials in the field — such as Lori Mathieu from the Connecticut Department of Health, Betsy Gara of Connecticut Water Works Association, and David Benoit from the Connecticut Water Service — has provided the vision, advocacy, and support for the program.
“Public utilities face a potential watershed in the shortage of young people applying to take the place of our aging and retiring workforce,” said Larry Bingaman, the RWA’s president and CEO, who said the new program is a plus for all participants. “The utilities gain a pool of qualified candidates to assume management and technical positions; SCSU has a new curriculum that meets the needs of local utilities; and the students gain new career opportunities.”
The new program at Southern will include 30 credits that focus on management of public utilities, such as water, gas, electric, and wastewater. New courses in asset and infrastructure management, green energy and environmental sustainability, crisis/risk management, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes will be part of the program.
“I know of no other bachelor’s degree program in the United States that focuses specifically on public utilities management,” said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an association of the largest publicly-owned drinking water utilities in the United States. “This unique program should fill a void in the development of future water utility leaders.”
The program will also include existing courses – such as business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning – which will have sections tailored to focus on elements of utilities management.
“The utilities demonstrated a serious need for this type of training because of the demographic trends and anticipated retirements,” said Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business. “At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce – this is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal.”
For further information, contact the program coordinator:
Dr. Gregory Robbins
Associate Professor of Management
Southern Connecticut State University
School of Business