How this generation of Power Plant Workers is helping the search for the next generation

Celebrating our 3rd annual Power Plant Worker Appreciation Day

Duke Energy’s thousands of power plant workers operate and maintain the company’s generation facilities across the U.S. The energy mix includes hydro, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, wind and battery storage. In honor of the third annual Power Plant Worker Appreciation Day, we sat down with Manager of Recruiting Buddy Erks to discuss locating and hiring power plant workers at Duke Energy’s generating facilities.

What is the recruiting strategy for generation positions?

Buddy Erks
Buddy Erks has been with Duke Energy since 2012 and is based at Brunswick Nuclear Plant.

We take every opportunity to find the best people to operate our power plants. We participate in recruiting events at local high schools, technical colleges and universities. We also go to military bases and have an intensive transition network for former military personnel to enter the workforce. We use LinkedIn and multiple job boards, and we partner with unemployment offices and career transition assistance organizations so we have a network that captures and advertises postings to broader audiences. We also leverage our current workforce to help us recruit and share opportunities with their friends, neighbors, college alumni and contacts in the community.

What is the hiring process for generation workers?

For operations at our generation facilities, there is a plant operator selection system assessment, where there is a standardized test with math, reading and comprehension components. Once testing is complete, we schedule the candidates who passed for an interview – virtual or in person. Once the hiring manager makes a selection, the recruiter connects with our Human Resources business partner to determine a fair, competitive compensation amount based on what people that are currently in the job are making and how that candidate compares in terms of skills and abilities. The compensation information is shared with recruiting, and we contact the candidate to discuss offer details. The hiring process averages around 60 days (about two months) and then an additional 30 days (about four and a half weeks) for pre-employment elements.

Duke Energy Nuclear - PPWA Graphic Identifier

What is the general background for most successful applicants?

For operations, particularly at our nuclear plants, traditionally, someone in the Navy is a good fit. There are a lot of community colleges that have two-year programs to prepare students for potentially being in nuclear operations. At our Regulated and Renewable Energy (RRE) plants, we see strong candidates who may come from public utilities, either the waterworks department or any department that has much of the same type of equipment. Auto mechanics, HVAC technicians or any craftspeople from the military are great in maintenance roles because they have worked on vehicles, which have pumps, motors and electronics in them. We have a lot of environmental employees who may have worked for municipalities, local labs or even the pharmacy industry.

What are some of the macro trends for hiring the next generation of power plant workers?

Five years ago, a large portion of our workforce was nearing retirement. It was a big concern to Duke Energy and the industry to get new talent in the door, not only from a knowledge transfer perspective but to start replacing those individuals that have had 30- and 40-year careers with Duke Energy. That has now leveled off a bit. However, there is still some time that we have, and will need to continue to focus on what we call “pipelining.” Pipelining is bringing new people into the organization to get them to learn from those more experienced individuals and then bring new ideas and concepts.

What are the types of common positions at a power plant?

Our power plants are little cities, with so many jobs that it would be impossible to name them all. We have operations and maintenance staff. These are the people who are physically operating the plant and taking care of it. We have supply chain employees who take care of the parts and pieces to ensure maintenance workers have what they need. Our security professionals keep our facilities and the people who work there safe. We have environmental teams making sure that we are good stewards in that area. In addition to all these, there are a variety of other support positions that are essential and provide well-paying and rewarding careers. Across all our different power plants, whether it be Nuclear or RRE, there are specialized skills that require individuals who want to put their talents to use to help support the greater good in our communities.

How do you describe the important role of a career as a power plant worker?


What we're really telling candidates is how they can make a difference in people's lives. We want the same things that our neighbors do. We all want a home with conveniences like lights, air conditioning and heating. We all want streetlights on sidewalks for walking and on streets for driving. That all requires electricity. So, it is no small thing power plant workers do. We change people’s lives by the services that we provide to all our local communities.

Any general career advice for someone interested in starting out in this field?

If you see a job description, carefully read it. The title may not tell you what a person in the role really does, but within our job descriptions we try to be very descriptive about what they would be doing daily. See if those descriptions relate to what you have done in your past jobs because skills are very transferable.

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