Native News Network Staff in Native Briefs. Discussion »
LECHEE, ARIZONA Eleven men have graduated from one of the most intense training programs in the energy industry to become the newest employees at the Navajo Generating Station.
The Proud Graduates
The Power Plant Fundamentals School instructs new Navajo Generating Station employee candidates in every phase of the power plant's technical operation, procedures, history and safety.
The curriculum of the seven week long school is equivalent to a two year, 21-credit college course.
Nicknamed the "Do or Die School," only successful completion qualifies a student for a regular, full time position.
Asked why he would undertake such an effort for a job, Pepper Morgan, 33, of Window Rock, said his boy was his inspiration.
“I did it for my 10 year old son, to give him a better life, provide him with more opportunities than I had,”
“I'm excited to start a new career and just raring to get to work.”
The school is selective to get into and difficult to complete. Only about half who are interviewed are invited to participate. Then, only about half who begin successfully finish. Course work involves 10 hours a day of classroom lecture and fieldwork followed by at least two hours per night of additional study.
The course outline alone is 50 pages long. It includes sections on every aspect of the power plant's parts, equipment, procedures and operations; from electron theory to the railroad that delivers coal, from physics to the properties of superheated steam, from the Federal Reclamation Act of 1902 to the history of why the Navajo Generating Station was built where it is on the Navajo Nation.
With federal concerns about power plant emissions, students learn how the Navajo Generating Station's pollution controls, such as its electrostatic precipitators, remove 99.5 percent of particulate matter, or "fly ash," from the coal that's burned, flue gas desulfurization systems - known as "scrubbers" - remove 95 percent of the sulfur dioxide, and the plant's new $45 million low-NOx burners reduce nitrogen oxide by 40 percent.
Navajo Generating Station conducts the Fundamentals School about twice a year. New courses are advertised throughout the Navajo Nation, Phoenix and Flagstaff.
The youngest member of the class, Myron Deel, 20, of Kaibeto, said that's where he heard about it.
“I read about it in the newspaper, the Navajo Times, and my parents told me I should give it a shot,”
At their recent graduation dinner, each of the students commented on the course's difficulty and the pressure they felt within themselves to succeed.
“It was intense for me, personally, ”
said Wilson Laughter, 45, of Naschitti, New Mexico.
“It was stressful because I have a family back home. But I'm looking forward to starting a new career. I worked for Navajo EPA for 13 years. Just like (course instructor) Tom Hull said, I want a little piece of the American dream for me and my family.”
NGS Plant Manager Robert Talbot told the graduates that if they focused on working safely throughout their first year on the job, they would probably work safely throughout their careers. Salt River Project, which manages the Navajo Generating Station, has developed a culture of safety from the newest worker to the company president.
posted July 21, 2012 7:50 am edt