EPD brings course to Commonwealth of Dominica

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Engineering Professional Development’s (EPD) goal is to provide education to professionals around the world. Recently EPD had the opportunity to take its Overhead Transmission Lines course to a completely new location, the Commonwealth of Dominica.

The chief engineer of Dominica Electricity Services (DOMLEC) had found the course online and contacted EPD. After personally attending an offering of the course in Madison, Wisconsin, he connected with EPD’s Program Director Mitch Bradt to start the process of bringing the course to Dominica, where it would be available to engineers and senior linesmen. Engineers all around the West Indies face similar transmission line issues, including distribution line stability, so those from neighboring islands were also encouraged to attend. Between the 32 attendees, “there was a lot of networking and sharing of best practices, more than just overhead transmission design,” says Carl Vieth, Director of Corporate Education at EPD. “Bringing us down was a big thing in that it enabled them to get a highly tailored, high-quality program that they could then apply across their group.”

As Director of Corporate Education at EPD, Vieth “work(s) with companies and agencies to look at the organizational development means. I was there to make sure that the course was running smoothly, that the customer’s needs were being met, and also to understand some of the ongoing challenges that they face to bring more EPD work to them in the future.”

Leading the three-day course was longtime EPD instructor John Miner, President of Collaborative Learning, Inc., who has experience working on tropical islands and electric utilities in the tropics. “We were able to get expertise that is very difficult to find in an instructor,” says Vieth. “He understood their technical challenges and was able to tailor the curriculum to fit their specific needs. “

At the end of the three days, DOMLEC’s CEO held a short ceremony to hand out the course certificates and recognize each person individually for their participation.

From the organization’s perspective, they were able to easily upscale their entire engineering workforce in a short period of time and get them to a consistent level of understanding. According to Vieth, “They were able to get engineers and line workers working as teams and understanding each other’s challenges in a pretty complex system. It broke down some of the traditional organizational barriers between different groups of employees.”

From the perspective of the individuals, they were able to gain knowledge and skill that they hadn’t had before, which could be applied immediately to their job. “They also received some recognition and reward from the organization’s leadership for their continuing education efforts, and were able to collaborate and network across geographic and organizational boundaries with their peers,” says Vieth.

EPD also benefited from this new experience. Vieth says that EPD was able “to gain exposure to some of the very unique challenges that engineers in the West Indies have within their electric distribution system. We got a pretty good understanding of some of the unique technical challenges that they have, and how they approach those was a learning experience for us.”

Overall, the experience was a positive one for all those involved. “We received very favorable reviews for the course,” says Vieth. “The HR director stopped me and asked if we could to discuss a couple of the other issues that the company is facing. We have been in discussions with them ever since to figure out how best to time, sequence, and fund that.  We developed these really rich relationships over just a couple of days and I think that these relationships will be very beneficial moving on.”