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Leading the Way

OPPD reflecting the community it serves

July 29, 2019 | Jason Kuiper | community, industry, public power

OPPD, like the rest of Nebraska, looks different than it did years ago.

And that’s no accident. OPPD has made a concerted effort to diversify the utility’s workforce. It’s just another way OPPD is working to “lead the way we power the future.”

The Legacy I3 program is one of the most visible examples of OPPD’s efforts to be more representative of the community it serves. But it is evident in other areas too. The makeup of the current senior management team is another example.

Five of the team’s nine members are women. Another is Hispanic and another a member of the LGBTQ community.

For OPPD President and CEO, Tim Burke, diversity and inclusion doesn’t just make sense, it’s the right thing to do.

“If organizations want to sustain and grow, then they must mirror their communities and better understand their customers and their employees,” Burke said. “It’s critical to have varied backgrounds and ideas to innovate and problem-solve.”

First steps

Two years ago, OPPD brought in the first class Legacy I3 students. The model is the brainchild of former nuclear plant operator and Navy veteran Deon Clark. It aims to put more diverse, high-potential students into utility jobs.

So far, 52 students have gone through the Legacy boot camp at OPPD. There, they learn about character development, college preparation, the electric utility and the path from high school to college to the utility. All while working at the utility as they get their education.

There are now 40 of these students in paid internships across OPPD. The students come from backgrounds that may not expose them to good-paying jobs in the electric utility.

Well before Legacy I3, OPPD had the INROADS program, which typically included students who were the first of their families to attend college. There are 11 alumni of that program who now work at OPPD.

OPPD has created opportunities for significant dialogue to explore and understand issues relative to diversity and inclusion through workshops such as the Gatherings for People of Color and the Gatherings for Women.

Statewide recognition

Burke and Mart Sedky, vice president of Human Capital at OPPD, recently presented the Legacy I3 program at the Nebraska Governor’s Economic Development Summit.

The two highlighted OPPD’s diversity efforts, community work and involvement and resources available to employees.

OPPD has a thriving network of employee resource groups, including the Veteran’s Network, African American Network, Latino Society, Society of Engineers, Young Professional’s Group and the now-forming LGBTQ+ and Allies. Those groups include networking and career development events as well as community outreach efforts.

In the community

OPPD employees are also visible and active in the communities the utility serves. Bright orange shirts emblazoned with OPPD’s Core Values are common sights at volunteer events across the 13-county service territory.

Recent Omaha-area parades featured OPPD employees, including the Cinco de Mayo, Veteran’s Day and Pride parades.

OPPD is the founding sponsor for a new program being launched this year in Omaha in partnership with Inclusive Communities, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Ethics Alliance called LeadDIVERSITY. This year-long program is designed to build a network of leaders dedicated to creating localized solutions to diversity and inclusion opportunities in Nebraska.

Sedky said it comes down to OPPD, its leaders and employees embracing the value that is created through an inclusive work environment.

“It’s important that we hear diverse views and ideas for the betterment of our utility and community,” she said. “Doing so will help us grow and be more innovative in all aspects.”

Sedky also spoke of the various career advancement and enhancement opportunities in the company. OPPD has increased mentoring opportunities for all employees and developing leadership from within.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

View all posts by Jason Kuiper >

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