Bringing the Future Hydropower Workforce to the Industry

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Bringing the Future Hydropower Workforce to the Industry


October 11, 2022


Bree Mendlin, Program Director, Hydropower Foundation


Bringing the Future Hydropower Workforce to the Industry

NHA thanks our sponsors:


Hiring your next worker, whether an electrical engineer or welder, is not an easy task.

From plant operators to environmental specialists and almost everyone in between, finding the right employee has become more difficult today as few workforce entrants know the great employment opportunities accessible within the hydro industry.

While this is not a new problem, it has become far more acute as hundreds of veteran hydro professionals exit the industry in upcoming retirements.

The Hydropower Foundation has been working for some time to address this challenge with programs designed to attract new young professionals to the industry.


Working with the National Hydropower Association (NHA), the Foundation is bringing one of its premier programs, Hiring for Hydro™, to the upcoming Clean Currents Conference + Tradeshow to step up our efforts to see new entrants to the hydro workforce.

As a not-for-profit focusing on hydropower workforce issues, our Hiring for Hydro™ program is one of several in our workforce development toolbox. The Foundation produces tailored educational events and student competitions to expose students to waterpower industries and the career opportunities that lay within.

Specifically, post-secondary education students are hand-picked to learn about the industry, gain career support, and meet hiring organizations. The Foundation works through its extensive network of universities, community colleges, and trade schools to:

  • Educate students and faculty about hydropower and the career opportunities it offers
  • Provide opportunities that bring students, particularly rising seniors and graduate students, together with potential employers


The Foundation’s programs are making a noticeable difference. Over the years, our programs have successfully placed a number of students in various industry positions at utilities, manufacturers, and service companies around the United States.

For example, Colin Sastav — the student who placed first in our 2021 Hydro Think Tank Unplugged Competition™, held at the 2021 Clean Currents Conference + Tradeshow in Atlanta — recently accepted a hydropower engineer position with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waterpower Technologies Office.

Additionally, one of our 2019 Hiring for Hydro™ participants, Zach Dunagan, recently shared his news of obtaining a position as a Mechanical Engineer in the hydropower group at General Electric.


The Foundation is excited to bring a group of students to the upcoming Hiring for Hydro Unplugged event at Clean Currents in Sacramento. The program will bring regional university and trade-school students to the conference on Wednesday, October 19th.

Starting at 9:00 am, students will attend the Clean Currents’ Plenary Session.

Afterward, the students will head to the Hiring for Hydro Unplugged™ Workshop, which will equip them with some initial exposure to hydropower through our Hydro 101 session (presented by one of our own, Hiring for Hydro alumni, Shannon Kellam, Grant County PUD). Students will receive a high-level overview of hydropower and better understand why it offers an exciting opportunity to work in one of the best clean energy fields in meeting our clean energy future. Additionally, they will learn about various career opportunities, including the many-faceted careers in the utility, manufacturing, service, and consulting worlds.

In the afternoon, the students will be able to attend their choice of educational sessions being offered in CC Central, as well as visit exhibitors and meet industry professionals to get a full appreciation of the wide breadth of potential employment opportunities.

A good place to meet the students is at the Hydropower Foundation’s booth, 1033. In addition, the students will attend the Clean Currents’ official networking party at the SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity.


The Foundation’s workforce programs have a strong brand within the academic community and potential employers. Starting with the marked success of the Research Awards Program (RAP). Elliott Jackson at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mark Christian with EPRI are alumni of that program. Next time you see them, be sure and ask about their experience. That program was one of the first of the Foundation’s workforce-focused programs.

Today, the nuggets of success of our newer programs are also being realized. Internships, fellowships, and actual employments are direct results of our Hiring for Hydro™ and Hydro Think Tank™ programs.

Shannon Kellam, Mechanical Engineer at Grant County PUD, and Annika Kallstrom, Power Business Technology Analyst at Chelan County PUD, are just two examples of students who participated in these programs, built relationships and networks, and ended up with hobs in the industry.

These programs provided them with an industry “mentor” to help them jump-start their careers. As we all know, it is not what you know but who you know.

Annika shared, “Thank you! Again, I really want to express how grateful I am for the Hydro Foundation and how Hiring for Hydro™ helped me get introduced to working in hydro.