12 May A Farewell Message from Sheryl Riggs
A Farewell Message from Sheryl Riggs
Often times when I sit down to write these posts, I find myself stuck on just where to start. I try to think about the season we’re in and how it relates to me and the industry. This month is a little bit different. My oldest daughter, Annie is about to graduate from undergrad and I couldn’t be prouder. It feels like just yesterday I was dropping her off at school for her first semester. Although her time at school was different than most, with the pandemic hitting smack dab in the middle, forcing her to come back home for a couple of semesters- time still flew by! Next up for her is preparing for the state nursing boards and perhaps graduate school. Her younger siblings are right behind her with their ambitions and dreams. The girls remember me responding to people who would say to them, “They are so pretty” and I would say “Smart too!”
I always remind my girls that the utility industry is looking for young talent like them. No matter what major or interests they develop in school, I can guarantee that there is a utility in need of their knowledge and skill set. Believe it or not, nursing falls into that as well. I learned that from Paula Gold-Williams, the former President and CEO of CPS Energy. It’s important that our incoming workforce knows that our utility companies aren’t just looking for line workers, technicians, and IT experts. They need human resources professionals, administrators, and much more. With my graduate-level degrees in Accounting and HR Management and experience, I wish I had been told this- I would have certainly stepped into the utility industry much earlier in my career. Now that I know, I take every opportunity to inform our young professionals of these opportunities that they almost never know about.
Not only does UTC have the UTC Foundation as a resource for college students and young professionals entering the industry, we also invite students to our annual conference every year. Last year in OKC, we were joined by a great group of the University of Central Oklahoma students and one professor. They had the opportunity to walk the show floor, spend time with UTC staff, network with conference attendees, participate in summits, sessions, and panel discussions and one lucky student went home with a brand new iPad. We’ve even had a few success stories come out of these scenarios where an internship or job is offered to one of these students. However, their presence alone motivates our attendees, as well as the UTC staff. They are the future of our industry.
I would encourage you to think about the children and young adults in your life, maybe they would be interested in attending. Not only UTC’s annual conference but regional events as well. Last year at the Region 6 event, I was excited to see that 4RF’s booth was being staffed by a grandfather/grandson team. That is exactly what I want our events to be about.
We’re always hearing about “the future of the workforce” and what’s wrong with it or what we can do to improve it or prepare for it. I say let’s stop talking about it and start seeing some action because the future is now and in many instances being influenced and groomed by us. It’s our job to lead the way.
As I think more about the workforce, what it needs, what the industry can do to help it and what we can do within our communities, the opportunities are endless. As this is graduation season, I feel as though I am a part of that celebration as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being a part of UTC has been the highlight of my life. My recent decision to move on to the next chapter, or graduate, has not been an easy one. My family has become part of the UTC family and they have been my rock throughout this journey and I’m excited to see what journey is ahead of me. Graduation season is a time to be happy, reflecting on your accomplishments over the year. While most of us may not be in school anymore, it’s still important to take that moment to pat yourself on the back and say, “good job” and then move on to the next endeavor. Just remember, in everything you do in life, do it with “Positive Energy.”