Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 30, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Hydro Ottawa was selected as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2018):
- Hydro Ottawa provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 90% of salary for up to 25 weeks) and parental top-up for new fathers and adoptive parents (to 90% of salary for up to 10 weeks) -- additionally, the organization offers a generous IVF subsidy for parents-to-be (up to $15,000)
- Along with helping employees save for the future, Hydro Ottawa maintains a dedicated engagement strategy for experienced employees and retirees -- as part of the initiative, the organization established a Retiree Association in the past year to encourage employees to stay connected
- Hydro Ottawa manages "AMP UP", an employee suggestion program for ideas that help benefit the company, from increased revenues to lower costs and safer working conditions -- employees are entered into a draw for an additional vacation day for each of their suggestions
Helping others is a core value at Hydro Ottawa
Hydro Ottawa is in the business of generating and distributing electricity and that means keeping the lights on 24/7, ensuring that the system is safe for customers and employees and meeting the needs of a growing community. "If somebody is out of power, our wheels are rolling," says Operations Supervisor Rob Longpre. "That's our basic instinct."
As well as responding to outages, Longpre supervises a team responsible for extending the grid to deliver power to new developments that will see 1,000 new homes built in suburban communities west of the city.
His colleague Chris Williams, a fellow Operations Supervisor, works in the east end and oversees a crew replacing aging poles, including many in backyards. That means dealing directly with customers without disrupting their lives.
However, Hydro Ottawa's commitment to the communities it serves goes beyond generating and distributing electricity. A program called Brighter Tomorrows offers all Hydro Ottawa employees the opportunity for one-day paid leave per year to volunteer with a charity or non-profit community organization of their choice.
The company has a partnership with Christie Lake Kids, an organization that serves economically disadvantaged children and youth by providing recreation and skill-building programs. "We go out and build docks, renovate buildings, clear brush and trim trees, whatever needs to be done for their summer camp" says Longpre.
Employees also help out at the Capital Fair, which is held in August every year and is closed to the public for a day to make way for special-needs children and adults. "We prepare and serve lunch, guide folks around and lift kids on and off rides," says Williams.
Generation Engineer Jeff Young has been involved in a project to open the company's downtown Chaudière Falls site to the public. A new powerhouse on the Ottawa River has replaced two early 1900s generating stations. The utility has built a bike path, pedestrian bridge and park on the islands where the facilities are located.
"These sites have been closed to the public for 150 years," says Young. "It's great to see these lands open so the public can enjoy them."
Hydro Ottawa's commitment to community extends beyond its borders. The company belongs to a mutual assistance program in which electrical utilities help each other out when natural disasters disrupt operations. Last fall, Hydro Ottawa employees helped restore power in several nearby Quebec communities and in the town of Tiger, Georgia that caught the tail end of Hurricane Irma.
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Hydro Ottawa was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018):
- Hydro Ottawa organizes The Student Apprentice, a half-day program that provides students with an opportunity to present "value-added" ideas to the organization and interact with executives, including the organization's President and CEO
- Hydro Ottawa collaborated with Algonquin College to develop and deliver the College's 2-year Powerline Technician Diploma Program, with the College providing classroom instruction to students and Hydro Ottawa employees delivering safety and skills instruction in a practical field environment
- Hydro Ottawa recently participated in Youth Futures, a program created by the City of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa to offer employment opportunities for high school students from low-income families and communities
Hydro Ottawa is in the midst of a 'youthquake'
Chris Cirullo completed his four-year apprenticeship with Hydro Ottawa this fall, but he had to let the occasion pass without toasting or celebrating. On the day he became a journeyperson he was on the job. "I celebrated by spending my shift in a pit restoring power to a couple of homes that had lost it," says Cirullo, who is an Underground Cable Jointer. "I was the on-call guy that day."
But he's all right with that. Cirullo joined Hydro Ottawa after earning his Powerline Technician Diploma and completing a three-month placement with the electrical utility. He migrated to the underground side of the business, as opposed to working on overhead lines, when he was exposed to it through his studies, and he enjoys the work as well as the work environment.
"Everybody is willing to pull together as a team," he says. "The guys I work with take a lot of pride in what they do."
Some of his fellow co-workers are journeypersons with years of experience, but a growing number of them are young apprentices and recent graduates. A decade ago, Hydro Ottawa launched a workforce renewal initiative to replace employees who would be retiring. "A quarter of the utility's employees have retired in the past 10 years and 40 per cent will be eligible to leave in the next 10," says Chief Human Resources Officer Lyne Parent-Garvey.
The number of employees under 35 has risen from 16 per cent to 32 per cent since 2007, and currently 21 per cent of the utility's trades workforce are apprentices. Among cable jointers, Cirullo's trade, 38 per cent are apprentices. As well, Hydro Ottawa has created an Engineering Intern Training and Development program to replenish the ranks in that field.
"We have invested and will continue to invest in apprenticeships and internships, as well as hiring, recruiting and promoting youth," says Parent-Garvey.
And Hydro Ottawa's youth movement is not limited just to trades and technical roles. Jessica McPherson, a Specialist in Talent Management, joined Hydro Ottawa after earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
"I work with amazing leadership," says McPherson. "Right out of the gate, they valued what I was bringing to the table. It gave me an opportunity to make a difference."
McPherson took time off to travel and she spent several years working elsewhere, but returned to the utility this fall. "I don't want to work with a company that's okay with the status quo," she says. "Hydro Ottawa wants to be the best at what they do. They want to be at the forefront, whether it's in human resources or the technical side of the organization."
That includes diversity, inclusion and youth. Shortly after returning to Hydro Ottawa, McPherson was appointed to the organization's Youth Council. All members are under 30 and drawn from across the utility. They meet quarterly to deal with issues such as recruiting and retaining talent, maintaining and improving employee engagement, and career planning and development for employees in the youth demographic.
President and CEO Bryce Conrad is the Executive Sponsor for the committee, which underlines the utility's commitment to retaining and engaging younger members of its workforce. "Having the CEO at the table is a really great opportunity," says McPherson. "We can hear his perspective and he can hear directly from us as to what youth wants in an organization."