Learning & Development

How the Utility Industry Is Powering Up Workforce Development

With training and development a high priority for top talent, different industries are finding ways to enhance their programs. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) recognizes the importance of supporting workforce and economic development initiatives, employing veterans, and doing its part to close the so-called skills gap.

Based in San Francisco, PG&E is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the country—employing more than 20,000 employees and delivering energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California.

The company says that closing the skills gap is one of the best ways to "bring high-quality job opportunities to local communities and help them thrive." PG&E’s PowerPathway program is helping the utility accomplish that goal.

PowerPathway is a nationally recognized workforce development program. PG&E explains that the program "aligns with various lines of business to create a qualified and sustainable pipeline of candidates for PG&E and the utility industry through public-private collaborations."

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PG&E states that strong partnerships and alliances with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), community colleges, nonprofit organizations, and workforce investment boards help drive the success of PowerPathway.

"PowerPathway has been successful because we’ve worked well together with nonprofit workforce development organizations and local colleges," PG&E Senior Vice President of Human Resources John Simon said this spring after the company received an award for its success with PowerPathway. "We’re very proud of what we’ve done to direct veterans and long-term unemployed Americans into careers, not just jobs. PowerPathway is one way PG&E is building the workforce that will help power California’s future."

Since PowerPathway’s inception in 2008, 600 people, including 300 veterans, have graduated from the program. The company reports that more than 80% of graduates have been hired either by PG&E or elsewhere in the utility industry.

During a visit to a PowerPathway training class this spring, Vice President Joe Biden noted that the program has set "the [workforce development] framework for a lot of other big companies, not just utility companies." Biden’s appearance was part of a 2-day visit to the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss the importance of workforce development and investing in job training programs.

The 15 students in the class that Biden visited were participating in the first-ever PowerPathway program featuring a "straight-to-contractor" job approach. That is, after completing a 6-week training class, graduates were to go directly to work on a PG&E contract with CANUS Corporation—to help them gain work experience while awaiting or pursuing utility job opportunities. PG&E reports that the program’s graduates receive necessary certification, gain experience on PG&E and other utility gas infrastructure, and are well-positioned to apply for jobs with PG&E or other utility companies.

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According to PG&E, that class was the first PowerPathway program to offer a nationally recognized certificate to participants—NACE International’s CIP Level One, which is also recognized internationally and is used by companies throughout the United States.

This fall, PG&E plans to expand PowerPathway to include a customized, 200-hour career transition course, including introduction to a customer service-focused career. After completion, 20 participants will be directly onboarded into customer service representative positions.

PG&E also has partnered with the Obama administration on workforce and economic development issues. Over the past 2 years, the company says it has helped address challenges among veterans and the unemployed by creating two PowerPathway workforce development programs in the Fresno region, supported the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed on to a Small Business Supplier Financing Initiative, and partnered on an "up-skilling" White House initiative.

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