All posts by Cristane

Strengthening the Broadband Labor Workforce

An influx of government and private money dedicated to broadband is enabling service providers to set ambitious plans to upgrade networks. But many providers are discovering that the critical challenge in this endeavor is building a strong broadband labor pool.

Telco and cable operator workers hired in the 1990s – when many providers last did major network expansions – have retired or will soon retire, taking with them the knowledge and skills required to transform the networks to fiber to the home (FTTH) and DOCSIS 4.0.

Bob Murphy, senior vice president of business services at ATX, says the emphasis on crews for the communications industry has hit a “20-year lull.”

“There was not a dedicated focus on training the workforce,” he says. “It shifted to an IT-centric workforce instead of pure outside- or inside-plant technicians or line workers.”

Even though the U.S. telecom industry will create 850,000 jobs by 2025 according to a coalition of industry associations, Mears, a construction and engineering services firm, sees the lack of a skilled workforce as a potential issue. “There’s going to be a huge demand for the specialized construction that will take place,” says Trent Edwards, president of Mears.

Read more at Broadband Communities Magazine

Vivek Arora Builds Careers to Build Communities

Vivek Arora, executive vice president and chief administrative officer

It’s a sunny day in La Grange, Texas, and the sky overhead is clear and blue. We’re at a tranquil piece of land alongside the Colorado River, and although it’s known as the Lazy Q Ranch, today’s guests are hard at work. There are 20 Mears Group employees going through an inventive leadership academy to develop management skills and take their careers to the next level.

Over two separate one-week periods, participants will receive high-level training on business fundamentals, financial management, customer service, communication, and leadership before competing in teams to bid for a mock project.

Vivek Arora and his colleagues created the program to develop future leaders from within. “Our leadership academy is like a mini-MBA but done in the context of our organization,” explains Arora, who is the executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and general counsel. “We’re using it to help people thrive where they are and to see where they can go next.”

Investing in these meaningful workforce development programs is one way Mears can strengthen the company from the inside, and they are a natural fit for Arora, who completed his own MBA at Rice University and graduated from Columbia Law School. He joined Mears’ parent company Quanta Services Inc. as a labor and employment attorney in 2010.

Previously, Arora worked in a large DC-area firm’s labor and employment practice. Now at Mears, he is responsible for several administrative functions that impact 6,500 employees across 9 business units.

Mears brings energy infrastructure engineering, construction, and maintenance services to customers in a wide variety of industries. Doing so requires modern equipment, specialized services, and skilled workers. But project volumes are high and workers are scarce. Robust workforce development initiatives are critical because they enable Mears to attract and retain employees in a competitive landscape.

“The old industry model of recruiting our current employees’ friends and family just won’t cut it in this modern era where projects are bigger and more complex,” Arora says. “We have to develop talent from within and find alternative sources for recruiting and retention so we can build our own competitive advantage.”

Read more at American Builders Quarterly

Mears Group Inc. Participates in New HyBlend Project to Assess Hydrogen Compatibility

Mears Group, Inc. announces its participation in a new research and development project that will address the technical barriers to blending hydrogen in natural gas pipelines at large scale.

The two-year HyBlend Project will assess hydrogen compatibility with pipeline materials and operations and deliver important information regarding long-term impacts. The project is led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory―along with participation from Sandia National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory—and sponsored by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

More than 30 stakeholders from industry, nonprofits, and academia are also contributing to the project. GTI, a leading independent non-profit organization addressing global energy and environmental changes, is serving as an industry liaison. They will also play a key role in life-cycle and techno-economic analyses that will support publicly accessible tools to characterize the opportunities, costs, and risks of blending hydrogen in the natural gas pipeline network.

Solider saluting American flag

Mears Group, Inc. Earns 2022 Military Friendly® Employer Designation

Mears Group, Inc. announced today that it has earned the 2022 Military Friendly ® Employer designation.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly ® Employer designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. Over a thousand companies participated in the 2022 Military Friendly ® survey.

Methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly ® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining an organization’s survey score with an assessment of the organization’s ability to meet thresholds for Applicant, New Hire Retention, Employee Turnover, and Promotion & Advancement of veterans and military employees.

“Mears is proud to be recognized as a Military Friendly Employer for 2022. This recognition is not possible without all of the talented veterans, transitioning service members, spouses and families that bring their unique talents to our organization,” said Vice President of Workforce Development, Stephanie Krabbe.

“Companies earning the Military Friendly Employers® designation create and elevate the standard for military programs across the globe, they have invested in substantive programs to recruit, retain and advance the veterans and service members within their organizations,” said Kayla Lopez, Director of Military Partnerships, Military Friendly ®. “To them, hiring veterans and servicemembers is more than just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.

Mears will be showcased along with other 2022 Military Friendly ® Employers in the December issue of G.I. Jobs ® magazine and on

2021 Trenchless Technology Project of the Year New Installation Winner

The project honored as the 2021 Trenchless Technology Project of the Year for New Installation is one that successfully applied horizontal direction drilling (HDD) to place underground a critical pair of 12,200-ft parallel power cables under the Rappahannock River near White Stone, Virginia – a hot topic and the type of crossing that is recently making national headlines.

Undergrounding telecom/power lines has been a part of HDD’s repertoire for many years but a national spotlight was shown on this particular type of application in August with PG&E’s announcement that it plans to underground 10,000 miles of power lines in northern California. This year’s winning New Installation project was selected prior to this news.

Traditionally, power lines are installed overhead, but this option leaves them vulnerable in times of severe weather and other events such as wildfires — costing owners even more money and time to replace and/or repair. HDD piques owners’ interest as a long-term protection for their investment when looking at environmental, aesthetic and cost factors.

The Greys Point to Rappahannock Station-Rappahannock River Crossing provides a great example of how HDD is utilized in undergrounding power lines. This project installed two parallel power and cable lines, replacing an overhead 115kV line, giving Dominion Energy Virginia (DEV) customers more capacity, as well as protection from potentially future downed lines.

This project was incredibly challenging for the contractor and its engineers designing it, with several issues requiring tremendous planning and teamwork to overcome. These issues included logistical planning, working during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a design that would be least disruptive to the waterway, resulting in the successful undergrounding of the lines; the project also included intricate overboarding and post lay burial of intermediary tie-in sections using a unique jetting machine to maintain the depth of the new lines 10 ft below the river’s bottom without the use of any mechanical dredging.

The project featured the Engineer, Procure and Construct (EPC) delivery process, which requires critical planning and communication to put together a design to install the two 8-in. steel pipe cables, with two fiber-optic cables tethered to each.

“It’s truly an honor for this project to be selected recipient of this year’s Project of the Year,” says JB Brown, Mears senior vice president and project director for this project. “This could not have happened without a lot of dedicated people working together…It’s great to know the industry sees and recognizes what we are doing.”

Read more at Trenchless Technology

Nick Stavropoulos Joins Mears Group, Inc. as Executive Advisor

Brings over four decades of utility industry experience


Nick Stavropoulos joins as Executive Advisor

Mears Group, Inc. is proud to announce that utility industry veteran Nick Stavropoulos has joined the organization as Executive Advisor.

Stavropoulos brings more than four decades of experience to Mears where he recently served as Chief Safety Advisor at NiSource and previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Pacific Gas & Electric. Before joining PG&E, Stavropoulos served as Chief Operating Officer for National Grid USA and held several leadership positions at KeySpan Energy Delivery.

“I am pleased to welcome Nick to Mears Group where he brings decades of energy and utility industry experience leading diverse leadership teams responsible for the end-to-end delivery of safe, reliable, affordable and clean gas and electric service to millions of customers,” said Jesus Soto, Mears Group Chief Operating Officer. “Nick is a passionate advocate for safety culture. He will provide critical expertise to Mears in the design and delivery of safe and innovative infrastructure solutions to our gas and electric utility customers as they transition to a clean, resilient energy future.”