Southern: 32,000 and Growing
Southern Co., the largest electric generator in the country,
still plans to hire 1,000 more people before the end of the year.
Many of the job openings are in the unregulated sector, the company
said last week. So far in 1999, Southern has filled 2,000 vacant or
"It has been abnormally high for the past three years I'd say.
In 1998, we hired 2,400 people, and we thought that was high," said
Mark Wolfe, manager of staffing for Southern Co. "The growth has
coincided with the company's expanding unregulated service
So far in 1999, Southern has continued to follow its demanding
growth strategy. Southern Energy Inc. (SEI), the company's
unregulated marketing arm, was a main reason for the overall
company's 16% higher net income in 2Q99 compared to 2Q98. SEI
reported $69 million in second quarter 1999 earnings, compared with
$25 million for the same period last year. Because of its increased
presence, SEI's workforce has increased. When the joint venture
with Vastar Resources began, it had 100 employees. Southern said
that number has increased to 300 currently and will rise to the
500-600 range by this time next year.
Southern has also purchased more than 6,000 MW in New England,
California and New York so far this year. Included in this total
was Southern's purchase of all of Orange & Rockland's
generation assets for $480 million, which closed last July.
Southern said many of the new positions are dedicated to managing
this influx of generation.
Chris Womack, senior vice president for Southern human
resources, said the changing shape of the company has required a
change in its human resource strategies.
"Power generation businesses, which we are acquiring, building
and operating around the country, drive much of our hiring," Womack
said. "But we also require other skills such as information
technology and financial specialties."
Some of the people will be put to work in Georgia, but many will
be employed in New England, California and in the Midwest, where
Southern is now doing business. "Most of the new forces are being
employed in the design, construction and operation of the latest
and most efficient power generation plants we can bring online,"
Although there is a tremendous amount of competition for talent,
Wolfe said Southern is on target to meet its employment goals.
"We've increased the amount of tools used in order to get the job
done. That includes putting more emphasis on Web sites and using
search firms. This shouldn't slow down within the next three years.
We're already prepared to take on 3,000 next year."
He added that while the numbers have increased, they are fairly
normal for a company with 32,000 employees overall.