Operator/Area Dispatcher

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Operator/Area Dispatcher


At the flick of a switch, we are used to having it. Without it, our modern world gets turned upside down. What is it? It is electricity. How does it get routed to millions of homes, businesses and institutions? By people who work as operator/area dispatchers. Area dispatchers monitor the availability and the use of power throughout various sub-stations across the region.

Area dispatchers perform a job similar to an air traffic controller - except that they control the generation of power in a complex transmission and distribution electrical network. They work in highly computerized environments and are the main contact for electrical workers in the field. Area dispatchers are also responsible for maintaining water reservoirs used in power production and regulating water flow. These workers are calm under pressure, able to handle stress well and methodical in their approach to problem-solving.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
These workers have an interest in operating computerized systems and switchboards to maintain or stop the transmission of power. They are skilled with computers and calm and methodical in their approach to problem-solving. Area dispatchers need to have good vision to enable them to monitor the various switchboards and equipment. Finally, excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, are required by these workers to receive and give instruction effectively.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor and operate computerized or pneumatic controlled switchboards and auxiliary equipment to control the distribution and to regulate the flow of electrical power in the transmission network
  • Coordinate, schedule and direct generating station and substation power loads and line voltages to meet distribution demands during daily operations, system outages, repairs and importing or exporting of power
  • Monitor and inspect station instruments, meters and alarms to ensure transmission voltages and line loadings are within prescribed limits
  • Detect equipment failure, line disturbances and outages
  • Issue work and test permits to electrical and mechanical maintenance personnel
  • Assist maintenance and technical personnel to locate and isolate system problems and assist during routine system testing
  • Complete and maintain station records, logs and reports
  • Area dispatchers spend their work hours in a highly computerized environment. They work in shifts days, evenings and overnights, as power stations run 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year. Some days will be routine, with operators monitoring the boards and completing reports. However, when there is a power outage, these workers, in contact with electrical workers in the field, are responsible for restoring power. In emergency situations workers will work longer hours to get the job done.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Operator/area dispatchers are employed by electrical companies and work at electrical generating plants, regional control centers or system control centers for bulk exportation of power.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With experience and seniority there is opportunity for these workers to move into supervisory positions or to a system control center for bulk power exportation.

  Educational Paths  
To work in this field, a grade 12 education is preferred but a grade 10 education or equivalent including English 10, Math 10, and Science 10 is recommended. Then the first step to finding employment in this area is to find a job with a local electrical company, as your employer's cooperation is required to complete an apprenticeship. Generally, over three years of work experience in the trade and completion of some college and industry related courses are required for employment in this industry. Certification and apprenticeship requirements vary from state to state, so it is best to check with your regional electrical company.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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