Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers
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
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."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Hydro Ottawa was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- Hydro Ottawa focuses on developing diverse pipelines of talent and works with Employment Accessibility Resource Network and the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities at Carleton University to provide summer student employment opportunities -- and, in partnership with the City of Ottawa, piloted the Youth Futures program, 6-week employment opportunities for a high school student from a low-income family
- Hydro Ottawa participates in National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA's Power of Trades initiative, a pre-employment program to help internationally trained tradespeople and immigrants access employment opportunities
"My first Pride Week with Hydro Ottawa was truly inspirational and fulfilling as we had a transgender person speak to our employees about their struggles in the workplace while transitioning. Listening to their story and reflecting on the work the Pride Network was undertaking made me realize that the Pride Network was helping to bring down barriers LBGTQ people face in the workplace and that we were encouraging our employees to express themselves as who they feel they are." Nathan K., Labour Relations Advisor
Hydro Ottawa goes deep to change its culture
Roger Marsh, Chief Energy Services Officer with Hydro Ottawa, describes himself as a white male and father of three who has worked in the electrical utility industry for nearly four decades. Nevertheless, when asked to lead the company's Pride Network, Marsh readily agreed.
"I worked with members of the LGBTQ community for years, but a lot of them wore a mask every day they came to work," he says. "No one should have to do that. Having the freedom to live your life the way you want to live is very important to me."
Hydro Ottawa launched the Pride Network in 2015 as part of a broader Diversity and Inclusion Plan that also focuses on women, youth, visible minorities, new Canadians, people with disabilities, and First Nations. "We want to attract, retain and engage employees that reflect the diversity of the communities we serve," says Chief Human Resources Officer Lyne Parent-Garvey. "Diversity spurs innovation, drives growth and gives us a competitive advantage."
The company introduced its first Diversity and Inclusion Plan in 2014 with a number of foundational initiatives aimed at changing the broader organizational culture. With an emphasis on leadership alignment, communication, stakeholder engagement, and training, those in executive and management positions were taught to be aware of unconscious bias when hiring or promoting, and training was provided for every employee on respect in the workplace.
The Pride Network is one of several groups established to advance the initiatives of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan. Hydro Ottawa also has a Diversity Council, Youth Council and an Accessibility Committee. Parent-Garvey says that the company has rolled out some 50 initiatives and has formed partnerships with a number of community organizations.
Hydro Ottawa has successfully recruited people with disabilities through its partnership with the Employment Accessibility Resource Network. The company works closely with the YMCA/YWCA and Hire Immigrants Ottawa and their Employer Council of Champions and Working Groups in order to recruit members of visible minorities.
"The key to success for us has been our partnerships in the community with like-minded organizations that are working toward the same goal," Parent-Garvey says. "We couldn't have done it on our own."
The company is a founding member of the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity for the Electrical Industry. "We're a very male-dominated industry," she says, "but we're hiring more and more women in engineering, the trades and technical positions as well as leadership roles."
Indeed, for the first time, the managers of metering systems and distribution asset planning are both women. As well, the company provides training for female leaders and emerging female leaders through the "Taking the Stage" program delivered by the Niagara Institute.
It is also supporting the Ottawa Catholic School Board's JourneyUp! program which educates and encourages female high school students to consider careers in engineering and the trades. Hydro Ottawa has put together several video profiles of its own women who work in these fields and shares them with teachers.
Marsh, meantime, says the Pride Network has made considerable progress in changing attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. The network has about 10 members from all levels of the organization who meet regularly, especially in the lead-up to Capital Pride Week each August.
"Five years ago there was unease around raising the Pride flag," he says. "Now we have a week of activities. More and more people are getting involved. We've had an exponential increase in participation in the parade. People want to get involved and make a difference."
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Hydro Ottawa was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2018):
- Hydro Ottawa is one of the largest municipally-owned producers of green energy with an expanding portfolio of hydro-electric production facilities in Canada and nearby New York state, additional solar power generation capacity, landfill gas generation facilities and a unique partnership to build a 4MW ion battery energy storage facility
- Hydro Ottawa maintains an ongoing program to green its fleet, from a policy to reduce idling to replacing vehicles with more efficient, cleaner alternatives such as electric and hybrid cars, hybrid pick-up trucks, a hybrid bucket truck and flex-fuel vehicles -- the organization also recently partnered with Carlton University to study electric grid capacity in support of the ever-increasing number of electric vehicles on the road
Hydro Ottawa goes green in unexpected ways
Franz Kropp is the Director of Generation at Hydro Ottawa, which means he is responsible for the utility's 16 run-of-the-river generating stations, its growing portfolio of solar installations, two landfill gas-to-energy generating plants and measures to protect two endangered species - the migratory American eel and lake sturgeon.
The utility has created spawning beds for sturgeons in the Ottawa River and installed fish ladders that allow the eels to bypass generating stations. Small measures, perhaps - but they reflect the breadth of Hydro Ottawa's multi-faceted commitment to environmental sustainability.
As Ontario's largest municipally-owned producer of green power, Hydro Ottawa's generating stations are capable of producing 128 megawatts of electricity, enough to illuminate and power 107,000 homes. The run-of-the-river stations, some of them more than 100 years old, are located on the Ottawa, Gananoque and Cataraqui rivers as well as three rivers in upstate New York. The turbines are powered by the water flowing downstream at any given moment as opposed to water stored in reservoirs, which means they have a much smaller environmental footprint.
The utility owns two landfill gas-to-energy generating plants, one of which opened in 2005 and the other in 2013. As Kropp explains, decaying garbage in a landfill produces methane gas which is normally piped to the surface and flared off - in other words, it's simply burned. Hydro Ottawa has sunk wells into the landfill sites to collect the gas and uses it as fuel for gas-fired electric generators.
In 2016 and 2017, the utility installed rooftop solar panels on several city-owned arenas and other buildings. These are capable of generating nearly 3 million kWh per year, the equivalent of removing more than 300 homes from the grid annually. Kropp says his team is currently in the process of designing and planning several larger solar farms on former industrial sites.
In addition to generating green power, Hydro Ottawa has a multi-faceted Environmental Sustainability Strategy which includes goals and objectives around carbon footprint reduction, waste management and recycling, green procurement, the supply chain, and building a culture of environmental sustainability.
The utility is a founding member of the Carbon 613 Initiative in which a group of companies with 613 area codes are working together to develop technical reporting metrics aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions within the city and surrounding suburbs.
As well, the utility is always looking for ways to realize environmental advantages from its vehicle fleet. Fleet managers have been testing biodegradable, vegetable-based oil in the hydraulic systems of some of their trucks, and 40 per cent of the vehicles in the fleet now incorporate hybrid technologies of some sort.
For example, bucket trucks used to work on overhead wiring are equipped with battery packs that allow workers to operate the boom and bucket without having to leave the vehicle running. "It's a complex conversion and the batteries have to perform when it's 20 below outside," says Bruce Lang, Director of Health, Safety and Environment. "But the upside is we don't need to have vehicles idling and burning gas while workers are up in the air repairing overhead power lines."
Hydro Ottawa has also partnered with the City of Ottawa on the installation of eight electric vehicle charging stations in municipal facilities, and has upgraded services at the Rideau Centre shopping mall to allow for eight new Tesla super-charging stations. "We believe that powering electric vehicles is part of our core business and we're committed to supporting this," says Lang.