Internship allows tomorrow’s mechanical engineer to earn experience today

By on September 10, 2014

Tania Hernandez won’t graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio until next spring, but she already has six summers of work experience with CPS Energy.

She’s learned the power cycle and its major components, assisted in the justification to remove a power plant component, developed a workbook to analyze and compare the costs of various energy resource technologies and assisted in development of market analysis workbooks to help forecast and evaluate wholesale power prices.

This summer, she was exposed to the entire energy market of buying and selling of power.

“It really fascinated me,” she said.

A graduate of Burbank High School, Hernandez gained all this experience, largely in her chosen field of mechanical engineering, by participating in CPS Energy’s Student Assistance for Education (SAFE) summer intern program.

“I started this program in high school, so it really boosted my confidence and motivated me, knowing that professionals believed in me,” she said. “I was getting hands on experience before I even learned about it in college.”

SAFE is aimed at high school students interested in careers related to the utility industry, including engineering, science, math, computer science, business and accounting. Those chosen for the program must rank in the top 20 percent in their class with a grade average of B or higher.

Each year, a half-dozen juniors are chosen; they work directly with a CPS Energy mentor in their chosen field, then get paid work experience with the company in the summers after their junior and senior years in high school. Upon graduation, each receives a $5,000 scholarship for college.

Hernandez was paired with Arthur Butcher, interim senior manager of wholesale power origination. Butcher attended Roosevelt High School and graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in mechanical engineering. He has served as a mentor several times during his 21 year career at CPS Energy.

“It’s so rewarding to see the individuals you’re mentoring grow and learn to apply the educational skills they’re developing in school to real world business applications,” he said. “The pace of their development over just the course of a summer is incredible and enjoyable to see.”

Arthur praised Tania’s passion to learn.

“She asks a lot of questions and shows great interest in learning as much about the energy business that she can when she’s here in the summers.”

Tania said the SAFE program has broadened her horizons.

“After each internship, I leave feeling like I am so much closer to understanding the company as a whole, but each year I come back I discover new departments and roles that I didn’t even know existed.”

Since the SAFE program began in 1992, CPS Energy has awarded more than $605,000 in college scholarships to 131 local students. On Jan. 1, 2015, SAFE applications can be found at cpsenergy.com, keyword SAFE. For more information about the program contact Karen Sanders at 353-2701.

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