T&D World Magazine

ComEd's Youth Ambassador Program Employs and Educates Local Teens, Building Chicago's Next Generation of Energy Experts

In this economy, trying to land a job can be a difficult task for anyone, but it is especially challenging for high school students who have little work experience. Teenage employment rates in Chicago continue to linger around 25 percent, and that number is even more prevalent among minorities, according to a recent report bythe Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. For example, in many African-American communities approximately only 10 percent of teens aged 16 to 19 years find jobs.

ComEd helped 70 local high school and college students, ages 15 to 19, beat those odds this summer through its Youth Ambassador program and hired 15 of the top Youth Ambassadors for year-long, part time positions to educate community residents about energy efficiency and energy conservation. Through its Youth Ambassador program, ComEd is building the next generation of smart energy experts while providing these students with valuable work experience and a head-start on navigating the tough economy. The students began their year-long assignments last week.

The summer Youth Ambassador program, gave students the opportunity to learn from industry experts on the importance of sustainability, how to save energy and conserve resources. Students also learn about the customer and environmental benefits of smart grid technology, which ComEd will deploy over the next 10 years. In turn, the students serve as ambassadors by sharing this information with peers, neighbors and residents at various community events throughout the summer.

Chicago provides a premier environment to develop the next generation of smart energy experts. The city is home to one of the largest energy companies in the world, the largest urban solar power plant in the country, and 13 of the major wind power companies are located in the Chicago area. In addition, some of the leading smart grid equipment is manufactured here.

"The Youth Ambassadors program is an exciting opportunity for young people throughout Chicago's neighborhoods," said MayorRahm Emanuel. "By creating jobs for high school students, ComEd is offering valuable experience and training in a key field and fostering economic development throughout the city. I commend ComEd for its leadership and commitment to Chicago's young people."

"Our Youth Ambassador program not only allows us the opportunity to give meaningful work experience to teenagers in our communities, we are also reaching our younger customers to teach them the importance of creating a sustainable future," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd. "With the wealth of energy efficient resources available in the Chicago -area, including our new youth ambassadors, the city is headed toward becoming the smart energy capital of the country."

The Youth Ambassador program is a community effort, joining several partners including the Chicago Urban League, Chinese American Service League, Faith in Place, UNO Charter School Network and Jobs for Youth. In addition, the ambassadors reflect the diversity of the communities served by ComEd and come from neighborhoods including Chinatown, Chicago's south side, west side and near western suburbs.

"We know first-hand the challenges young people face when looking for employment opportunities and the Youth Ambassador program is a win-win situation for everyone involved," said Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO, Chicago Urban League. "The students receive valuable real-life work experience, enhance their communication skills and open themselves up to a new career path."

"This collaboration assures local students have a learning opportunity to not only educate themselves but to serve as environmental stewards and inform others throughout their communities on the financial and environmental benefits of being energy efficient," said Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield, executive director of Faith in Place.

The Youth Ambassador program is part of ComEd's effort to provide customer education, as part of its $2.6 billion investment to modernize the region's electric infrastructure and implement smart meters and smart grid technologies under the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act enacted last fall by the Illinois General Assembly.

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