Jennifer Grove - Southern Company
Workforce Dev. Coordinator
With over 17 years experience at Southern Company, Jennifer is responsible for educational partnerships to grow Gulf Power’s future workforce and enhance Northwest Florida’s economic development position. These programs span the entire talent supply chain, beginning with early learning programs and continuing to elementary energy career and STEM awareness programs, high school talent pipeline programs, and post-secondary technical partnerships.
Jennifer helped found and serves on the Executive Committee of the Florida Energy Workforce Consortium and is actively engaged in leadership of many other workforce development/ education organizations including Workforce Florida, Inc., STEMflorida, and the Florida Education Foundation.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
To ensure our country has the talent we need for the economy we desire, it is critical we re-energize our youth around science, technology, engineering and math. We must develop critical thinkers who are curious and can apply academic principles in workplace settings.
It’s imperative not to isolate STEM education from workforce education as if they are an either/or proposition. We must ensure STEM education is taught in an applied workforce-relevant setting so students can transfer that learning to multiple contexts.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
As business leaders we have to assist in helping students learn how to apply academic principles by providing resources - guest instructors, student internships and teacher externships.
We must support STEM project-based learning opportunities. These programs often are more costly and time-consuming and therefore not included in “standard” instruction. This could take the form of robotics competitions, labs, or workplace learning opportunities.
Further, we must ensure that academics are integrated with career and technical education and vice versa. We must engage to ensure that STEM programs focus on preparing all students for college and work and are not isolated to a limited population.
Finally, we have to understand many students struggle early in their elementary education with math and science. We have to address early childhood development as not just the precursor to reading, but as a foundation to all education, including STEM. We have to focus on the entire talent supply chain — from birth through post-doctoral work — to determine how we can best support movement of talent through this educational pipeline.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
I am most proud of the development and growth of the Gulf Power Academy, our flagship talent development pipeline program that launched at Pensacola’s West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in 2001. This career academy offers students in grades 9 – 12 an opportunity to “major” in Gulf Power and experience careers in our company and industry. Through curriculum designed by our industry, mentors at Gulf Power, and work opportunities, these students are able to prepare for and make more informed decisions about their path following high school graduation. Since the first graduating class in 2005, Gulf Power has hired 49 graduates from this program into power generation, distribution, customer service, and engineering careers.
Which woman leader do you most admire, and why?
I most admire Susan Story, President and CEO of Southern Company Services. In her time as President and CEO of Gulf Power Company, Susan was a strong voice in our region and state on how businesses must engage in education – not because it is the right thing to do for the community (though it is) but rather as an imperative for business success. Susan continues to lead by example through her support of Southern Company Workforce Development strategy focused on career and STEM awareness, talent pipeline preparedness and key external workforce development partnerships, such as the Center for Energy Workforce Development.