Riviera Utilities intern program prepares students for future workforce

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/10/22

FOLEY — A group of high-school students spent much of their summer digging ditches, pulling cables and performing other duties needed to help keep utility services going in a program to teach …

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Riviera Utilities intern program prepares students for future workforce

Posted

FOLEY — A group of high-school students spent much of their summer digging ditches, pulling cables and performing other duties needed to help keep utility services going in a program to teach young people job skills and prepare workers who will be needed in the future.

Riviera Utilities held a graduation ceremony Friday, Aug. 5, for nine students who took part in summer internship programs.

Sharon Cureton, Riviera administration manager, said the students worked with utility crews in several departments and learned the skills needed to prepare for future careers.

"Our interns did not just stand around and watch other people work this summer," Cureton said. "They had real tasks and responsibilities. Our supervisors took the time to train them and ensure that they learned real life work skills. They trusted them to do the work and ensure that they were able to perform."

She said the program trains students and gives them work experience while creating a talent pipeline for future employees.

"We are striving to open doors, break barriers and propel more Alabamians forward with this program," Cureton said. "Public utility careers are rewarding and motivating because you get to work in the communities you live, and you get to serve your neighbors and friends."

Tom DeBell, Riviera director, said the program helps teach students career skills and train possible future workers.

"We've had some really good students," DeBell said. "It's good to help them learn skills and some of these students in the past have come to work for us."

Spanish Fort High School student Blake Hoffman worked with a line crew in Daphne during the summer.

"I learned how voltage and current work, what each component does," Hoffman said. "I learned how underground works -- underground power lines, what it is like being part of a crew."

Grace James, an Elberta High School student, worked in the engineering department. Her duties included preparing work orders and planning jobs. She said some of her department supervisors showed her that some of her high school math classes do have a purpose in real life.

"Scott taught me the usefulness of geometry," James said. "It was probably the only useful high school class that I learned and used here. There's a sine and cosine and tangent."

Easton Whatley, a Foley High School student who worked as a groundworker, said the program was a valuable experience.

"I'm really going to miss the work and the people I met here," he said. "This is a new experience for me, and I never would have thought of working here if I had not come here."

Merrill Baxter, a career coach with the Baldwin County Public School System, said more trained technical workers will be needed in the future. She said the internship program helps meet the need.

"In our students' lives, Riviera has exemplified an extremely cohesive partnership with us for industry and education and it fills a critical need for jobs and technical areas," Baxter said. "Alabama's facing a significant skill gap. Industries are starving for people to come work for them and as they are starving, this re-enforces the value of technical careers in our local economy, while our youth are developing the skills that they need to pay the bills."

The 2022 summer internship was the second year for the program. Three students who took part in the 2021 program have been hired by Riviera, according to a company statement.

Nine students from Baldwin County high schools graduated from the program.

Nathan Anaya of Daphne High worked in appliance service. Jaden Bentley of Spanish Fort High worked as a gas operator. Javani Beshears-Ellis of Daphne High worked in the Daphne warehouse. Adam Bishop of Daphne High worked in appliance service. Joseph Eicher of Foley High worked as a gas engineer tech. Kenjarius Hall of Foley High worked as a plant operator. Blake Hoffman of Spanish Fort worked as a groundworker. Grace James of Elberta High worked as an electric engineer tech. Easton Whatley of Foley High worked as a groundworker.

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