Utilities are civilization. Without power, drinking water, and wastewater disposal, you’re back to living in the dark ages. It’s no wonder that power and water companies offer some of the most stable careers around: their services will always be in demand.

New Jersey’s utilities businesses are always looking for new recruits, and as baby boomers age out of the workforce, the demand for replacements is growing. Andrew Hendry, president of the New Jersey Utility Association, says power, gas, water, and wastewater companies have many positions to fill, for both high school and college graduates.

“As baby boomers age and retire, the energy and utility industry must find the next generation of workers to keep our critical infrastructure operational,” said Mary Patricia Keefe, chairperson of NJUA’s board of directors and vice president of external affairs and business support for Elizabethtown Gas. “The career paths that exist in New Jersey’s public utilities are limitless and range from line workers to service technicians and mechanics, from customer service representatives to engineers. With the appropriate education and training, workers can find a variety of challenging opportunities in our industry.”

The NJUA and New Jersey Assemblyman Wyane DeAngelo are hosting a utility industry career fair on Monday, November 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer at Mercer County Community College. Companies including PSE&G, New Jersey American Water, New Jersey Resources, South Jersey Industries, and Elizabethdown Gas, will recruit employees for a wide range of jobs. The New Jersey County College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development and the Mercer County One Stop Career Center will attend as well. For more information, call 609-631-7501 or e-mail asmdeangelo@njleg.org.

Hendry says more than half of the entire utility workforce is eligible to retire in the next 10 years, meaning that companies have to recruit at a rapid pace. He says utilities need line workers, office workers, and managers. There are positions for college graduates, vocational school graduates, and high school graduates alike.

“It really cuts across all job types in the industry,” Hendry says. “There are some jobs that require highly technically skilled workers, adn others that don’t. A lot of our companies try to work with institutions of higher education to reach students at a younger age to generate more of an interest in the utility industry.”

To train recruits for these roles, some utility companies have teamed up with community colleges. For example, JCP&L has created a workforce development program together with Brookdale and Raritan Valley community colleges.

The NJ Utilities Association itself is a trade group that goes back more than 100 years, to the days when electric utilities were in their infancy. Hendry, who grew up in Hunterdon County and graduated from Rutgers, has been its president for about five years. Before that he was with the state legislature, most recently working as executive director of the senate majority office.

There have been many changes in the utility sector recently — for example, the shuttering of PSE&G’s last coal-fired power plant, which was located in Hamilton — but Hendry does not consider the sector to be one “in flux.” Whether the power comes from gas, coal, nuclear reactors, or some other source, the companies will always need workers to tend the lines and keep the plants running.

The main selling point to potential utility workers is that the jobs are stable and pay well and offer opportunity for advancement. And utilities are one sector of the economy that is probably not going away, barring a catastrophic event of some sort.

“We are one of the most critical and important industries in the state,” Hendry says. “There’s always going to be a critical need for utilities in our economy.”

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