Salt River Project (SRP) is redeploying and retaining employees from the now defunct Navajo Generating Station (NGS) located in Page, Arizona, through its Apprenti program. SRP partnered with Apprenti, a nonprofit operated by the Washington Technology Industry Association, to reskill NGS employees for mid-level IT business analyst positions within SRP.
A total of nine former NGS employees were retrained to be IT business analysts at SRP through the creation of one of the state's first tech apprenticeships. At its size and scope, the utility has diverse staffing needs. To fill needed positions, SRP opted to train from within. As SRP faced the inimitable challenge of the NGS ceasing to operate by the end of 2019, it partnered with the community to establish a workforce solution to develop, train, and retain the NGS's 433 employees, all of whom were offered positions to stay with the company.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to shift my career in such a dramatic way and maintain a position with SRP," said Brian Kerr, recent Apprenti graduate and current IT analyst. "I have been with the company for more than 13 years and don't see myself going anywhere anytime soon. I believe the Apprenti program was a huge success because SRP successfully transitioned me from a crane to a conference room."
"Through collaborative teamwork, we trained and provided opportunities to employees who were facing an uncertain future," said Laura Cooney, who supervised the Apprenti program for SRP. "With their tenacity and commitment to the program, they made it happen and are now on their way to starting a new career. The investment is already bearing fruit when you look at the projects they are working on. They are adding value to the business and will continue to do so for years to come."
All of the Apprenti students completed the training in October after three months of intense classroom instruction and a year of on-the-job training. Being selected into the program required a rigorous process that involved aptitude testing, critical thinking skills, and rounds of interviews.
"I am really proud of SRP’s innovation in workforce solutions. We are the first to pilot the Apprenti program in Arizona and one of the first to sign on with the Precisionists, an organization which creates jobs for individuals with disabilities," said Tina Drews, SRP director of talent management. "We are rethinking the way we develop and train employees. SRP has exceptional apprenticeships for 13 crafts and trades, and now we are pioneering into professional apprenticeships. I hope we can be a model for other organizations."
For Kerr, the opportunity unleashed an education frenzy. While completing the Apprenti program, he also earned an entry certificate in business analysis, maintained his status as an emergency medical technician, and enrolled in college to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration by 2021.
"I have taken the first steps in my new profession and I never want to stop learning," said Kerr. "I could not have completed the program without the support of my manager, my supervisor, my mentor, and my peers in the program. The time I spent learning and training on the job with this support system was crucial to my success."
Apprenti is a registered apprenticeship program for careers in technology. The Apprenti model is designed to provide a proven, reliable pipeline for underrepresented groups such as minorities, women, and veterans to gain training, certification, and placement within the tech industry. The retraining program received funding from the Coconino County Career Center and was taught by instructors from Coconino Community College and Northern Arizona University.