Bismarck State College
Substation Construction and Maintenance Foreman, NV Energy
Robert Baffrey’s story is truly an inspiring one. He began his career with NV Energy in 2000 when he was hired as a Power Plant Operator at Tracy Generating Station. “I was basically hired off the street with relatively no experience,” Robert said. However, his strong work ethic and determination were a driving force in advancing his career. “[NV Energy] encourages you to work your way up, and they have a training program that was really helpful. It was all on-the-job training though, so I only had experience to put on a resume; it didn’t provide a certificate or a degree.”
Within eight years, he had worked his way up to the control room, but was ready for a change. He decided to make a switch to become an Apprentice Substation Electrician, even though it meant taking an initial pay cut. During his Apprenticeship, he learned about the online Electric Power Technology program through Bismarck State College (BSC) through a crew member who was currently enrolled. “At first, I just wanted to take a couple courses because I wanted to learn more about electric theory, but I just never stopped,” he said. “Then I thought I would just get the certificate,” he noted, “but I had two daughters in college at the same time and wanted to set a good example, so I decided to pursue the full Associate’s degree. My youngest daughter and I actually graduated just a few months apart.” Due to his work schedule, Robert wasn’t able to attend the graduation, but he live streamed it on his computer so he could still be a part of the ceremony.
Robert took the approach of slow and steady in earning his degree. “I began my program in 2009, and took one [block style] course at a time.” Robert said. “Being in substation, we cover all of northern Nevada, so we are on the road a lot. A lot of times I would be in motel rooms taking classes.” Another contributing factor to the pace was that he could take advantage of NV Energy’s tuition assistance program. “It’s great that NV Energy invests in its employees – they provided $2500 a year towards my education, which helped make it possible,” noted Robert.
The investment was well worth it. After his Apprenticeship, he spent two years as a Journeyman Electrician. He then bid into the Relay department and worked as a Technician for two years while still working towards his degree. He completed his program in 2015, and shortly thereafter, earned one of five foreman positions in the Substation department. Robert credits his career progression to his education: “Between my two years’ experience as a Technician and my degree, I was able to get the Substation Construction and Maintenance Foreman position. Without the degree, I don’t think I would have beaten out the other applicants.”
When asked if Robert would recommend the online Electric Power Technology program to others, he enthusiastically noted, “I would and I have! I’ve actually had several folks come to me, both Apprentices and those who want to be Apprentices, ask about the program.” Robert said he has encouraged others to look into the program because, “It will definitely help you get a leg up and get the job.”