Our industry is in a world of hurt. We are losing our seasoned and streetwise talent. I'm talking about the guys who have gained this tacit, or unspoken knowledge, through decades of experience. This “knowing” is devilishly hard to capture and even more difficult to pass on. But it is oh-so valuable.

After decades of stripping out utility talent to please Wall Street, our utilities are running so lean that we are starting to see misfires — mistakes that in the past were avoided when that senior person in the back of the room would ask the new guy recently put in charge, “Do you really want to do that?”

This streetwise talent still exists in our industry, even if it no longer resides in your utility. But how do you get the next generation to rub elbows with those few in the know? And how will you find them?

Last year we decided to take action. I met with Rob Trimble, COO of Oncor (formerly TXU Electric Delivery), to see how we might create a learning experience for our engineers and technical personnel. Trimble offered to have Oncor be the host utility for our first-ever Transmission & Distribution World University. Jim Greer, Oncor's vice president of Asset Management & Engineering, volunteered to be the point man for Oncor, and I agreed to lead the troops here.

We are not trying to create something to take the place of the many existing in-depth, weeklong training courses that already exist. Instead, we are creating an event where we can network with one another while rubbing elbows with renowned experts; and in the process, pick up a few of those unwritten rules that often make the difference between success and failure.

TRANSMISSION & DISTRIBUTION WORLD UNIVERSITY

The first thing we did was locate the guys in the know who had that ability to share their knowledge in a way that we could easily grasp it. We also asked instructors to facilitate in such a fashion that attendees would connect with one another. We simply must keep up our contacts if we are to stay relevant in this fast-paced world.

With 11 tracks over three days covering all aspects of T&D, our instructors will provide you with invaluable knowledge, insights and contacts in just about any area of interest. It doesn't hurt that a lot of our instructors are real characters. Dale Douglass and I taught a three-day dynamic overhead-line-rating course back when he was with PTI and I was at Georgia Power. Douglass can't fish a lick, but that is a different story.

You can make lifelong friends at events like this. I still communicate regularly with Shan Nandi with ComEd. Nandi participated in that course Douglass and I taught almost 20 years ago. Douglass, now with Power Delivery Consultants Inc., is teaching two courses, one that addresses dynamic overhead-line ratings and one that addresses the use of the new 3M and CTC low-sag conductors. If you take his course, give him heck. He likes it.

Dennis Johnson is another instructor who rocks. I was invited to the POWER Engineers educational event, which is held each year in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S. They might invite too, if you are a good customer. Anyway, Johnson is their underground guru. He let me sit in on his underground course, and he even let me expound a little on the impact of soil thermal properties on cable ratings. Hey, don't criticize me, I'm a self-proclaimed nerd, and this was the topic I chose for my master's thesis back in the day.

We decided to add a business track to the university and have instructors who are just too good to believe. Ellen Krohne and I are buddies. Our relationship goes back to her days at Illinois Power. Krohne, a business transformation junky, invited me to see what her utility had accomplished in integrating dispatch, customer service and outage management. She then went on to Capgemini, where she worked with TXU to set up and run their joint venture to provide call center services. So Krohne knows business transformation from both sides of the fence. She has the most marvelous smile and engaging demeanor, but you can't let that fool you. She is business through and through.

OUR SPONSORS

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the sponsors that make this university possible. Burns & McDonnell, POWER Engineers and Siemens are our platinum sponsors. Enspiria Solutions and Stanley Consultants have joined us as bronze sponsors. Thanks all.

One thing you will not see at T&D World University is vendor booths. We've decided to make this a training-only event, so there will be no show floor to peruse. We didn't want you to be distracted from what is designed to be a purely learning environment.

And most especially, thanks Trimble and Greer and all of our friends at Oncor for your efforts as host utility. I'll be bugging you to share your thoughts with our attendees, not only on training, but also on ways our industry might best serve our customers large and small.