Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



August/September 2012

Diversity/Careers August/September 2012

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Diversity In Action

Vectren Corp seeks diversity and offers jobs with variety

With strong leadership buy-in, diversity training is a key part of orientation at this Midwest energy company. IT and engineering pros are in demand

The first thing Lori Sutton noticed about working at energy company Vectren Corp. (Evansville, IN) was that its corporate climate encouraged career mobility.

"Six years ago, I was in the healthcare industry. I was offered a position as a business unit analyst at Vectren. Today, I'm Vectren's diversity and inclusion administrator. So whatever your technical discipline or engineering background, Vectren offers opportunities for you to build your skills and acquire new ones that advance your career," says Sutton.

Vectren's energy delivery subsidiaries provide gas and electric service to more than a million customers across Indiana and Ohio. Vectren's non-utility affiliates offer energy-related products and services to customers throughout the United States, including infrastructure and energy services, coal mining and energy marketing.

Vectren looks for applicants with utility backgrounds, as well as IT professionals with Hyperion and Oracle experience. But entry-level analysts are hired as well, Sutton says.

"We have a fairly large IT department as well as engineering," Sutton reports. Vectren usually recruits mechanical and civil engineers, she notes, but also has a handful of electrical engineers.

The company is primarily an Oracle shop, so those with Oracle application experience are needed. Sutton notes that Vectren also needs people with experience in IT maintenance.

Engineers support the energy delivery group, the technical employees that staff delivery of gas. "They work together if we need to do installation or maintenance on pipes. They work with them on design and make sure we have the proper layout for any new services," Sutton says.

The company offers internships in IT and has had co-op students and interns in engineering. "We provide them with the typical day-to-day experience. They work closely with the staff, so they are involved with projects and assignments associated with our permanent positions," Sutton says.

Vectren targets diverse candidates with online postings. It also reaches out to the African American, Hispanic, and Asian online communities, and recruits at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Tennessee State, Wilberforce, and Central State (Ohio). All recruiting efforts target universities or organizations with a significant minority and female representation.

"Because Indiana and Ohio are our service territories, we network and do outreach with historically black colleges and universities in those areas. We are building partnerships and relationships with department heads and career services offices to get the word out about Vectren," Sutton says.

Vectren has started a grassroots recruiting approach, seeking out multicultural and women's organizations in its service territory. "We always went to universities where we felt minorities and women were more prevalent, but the HBCUs and grassroots campaigns are something we started last year," Sutton says.

New hires attend a diversity and inclusion presentation at orientation. The company requires diversity training for all employees every two years. Curriculum depends on the person's role in the organization. There is diversity training specifically for hiring managers, offering tools for recruiting, attracting and selecting a diverse workforce. In addition to the formal training program, the company offers online competency-based courses focused on diversity and inclusion.

Vectren's diversity action council is made up of twenty-eight members, representing each of the company's business units. It's chaired by the VP of human resources. The full council meets bi-monthly and has five committees: attraction and retention, supplier diversity, marketing, performance management and leadership development. Committees also meet every two months.

Senior executives stay in tune with the group. "This year, we set a corporate goal to be a leader in diversity and inclusion, and the council will be instrumental in helping achieve this goal. We approved a new strategic plan, and we have buy-in and support from not only senior executives but the board as well. That's something to be proud of," Sutton says.

Because of the nature of the utility business, Vectren expects to be hit with baby-boomer retirements in the next few years. Succession planning is ongoing, focusing on what the Vectren workforce will look like and making sure people are in place, Sutton says. "We know we need a pipeline. Many individuals in the current workforce will have the opportunity for promotions and be able to move into key roles," she says.

A formal Vectren mentoring program, "Emerging Leaders," pairs employees recommended by their colleagues with directors and vice presidents, Sutton says. The company ensures a diverse representation of both mentors and protégés. Sutton herself was a participant.

Vectren offers a competitive compensation package. "We have a pay-for-performance philosophy. Our benefits include 401(k) savings plans, vacations, paid holidays, tuition assistance, wellness programs, two on-site health clinics, flextime in some roles, and work from home programs."

The company encourages and tracks community involvement. Employees contribute their time, talent and leadership to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, "collectively logging 20,000 hours of volunteer service each year," Sutton reports.

"We're looking for people with integrity and drive who share a passion for environmental stewardship and community service. In return, we offer a stimulating and rewarding work environment for personal and career growth," Sutton concludes.


Vectren Corp

Headquarters: Evansville, IN
Employees: 4,500+
Revenues: $2.2 billion
Business: Gas and electric service; other energy-related products and services

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