The growth of West Texas A&M University’s engineering programs has coincided with surging demand for new engineers at Xcel Energy who are supporting a multi-billion dollar initiative to transform the region’s power grid and power generating systems.
The timing couldn’t have been better for both Xcel Energy and the new graduates, many of whom were
eager to find work close to home after they finished school. Xcel Energy now employs 37 WTAMU
engineering graduates, and the number grows every year.
“We knew that in order to hire and retain the workers we needed for such a large capital expansion, we
would need to recruit engineers from our area,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – New
Mexico, Texas. “WTAMU recognized our needs and the needs of other businesses and industries in the
the region, and their engineering graduates have made a huge contribution to our success and to the
the success of the regional economy on the whole.”
Xcel Energy’s regional operating system stretches from Perryton, Texas, in the northeast to Carlsbad,
N.M., in the southwest – more than 50,000 square miles of the Panhandle and South Plains regions in
Texas and a six-county area in eastern and southeastern New Mexico. WTAMU, which draws a large
number of students from the same footprint, started its engineering program in 2003 by offering a degree in mechanical engineering, with the first of these students graduating in 2005. A civil engineering degree was offered for the first time in 2011, and in 2017, WTAMU started its electrical engineering program. The first electrical engineering degrees were awarded in December of last year.
Xcel Energy has been able to hire graduates from all three of these engineering disciplines, and plays an advisory role in helping shape curricula that meets the demands of the area workforce in an effort to
retain the WTAMU graduates for the benefit of the regional economy. This interaction between local
industries and the local university is a key strategy in long-term economic development efforts across the region.
“While our graduates have gone on to great things around the world, we’re keenly interested in training
top performers who will stay in the area and help sustain and enlarge our regional economy,” said J. Rich Sparks, assistant director of development at WTAMU.
One of those top performers, Sarah Ritchie of Amarillo, chose to study engineering at WTAMU for many
reasons, including the smaller class sizes and the ability to work closely with professors. Another draw
was the ability to job shadow and intern with local businesses, which she did with Xcel Energy before
earning her degree in mechanical engineering in May of 2013.
Shortly after graduation, Ritchie was hired for a full-time job at Xcel Energy. She now works in Xcel
Energy’s Distribution Design group where she consults with customers and designs construction jobs to
meet their needs. These jobs can include line extensions to residential, commercial and industrial
customers, and also updates to Xcel Energy’s local power grid to improve the quantity and quality of
What was especially appealing about a WTAMU education was the ability to stay close to home, Ritchie
“I enjoyed living in the Panhandle and wanted to stay close, so it seemed like a great choice considering they offered the engineering degree I was interested in,” Ritchie said. “I think WTAMU offers a great option for employers looking for college graduates that are from the area and want to stay local to the Panhandle.”
Xcel Energy continues to seek out area students for future jobs in engineering and a host of other areas.
Information on careers at Xcel Energy can be found by going to the company’s website, xcelenergy.com, and following the careers link. Jobs are posted not only for the company’s Texas and New Mexico service area but also for positions across Xcel Energy’s eight-state service area that stretches from the Upper Midwest through Colorado and down to Texas and New Mexico.