ComEd joined community members to celebrate the sixth graduating class of Tools of the Trade, a seven-week apprenticeship program that connects high school students from diverse communities with career training in the trades and teaches them how to safely work with tools. The 25 students gained exposure to careers in the energy sector from ComEd guest speakers, hands-on projects, site visits, and professional development classes at ComEd’s Chicago and Rockford training centers.
“An introduction to the trades and how to use current tools can be life-changing for students at this age and spark an early interest in the exciting field of energy,” said Terence R. Donnelly, president and COO of ComEd. “As ComEd works to promote a more sustainable, clean energy future for the 9 million people we serve in northern Illinois, we are committed to ensuring it includes equitable opportunities for our communities. Through programs like Tools of the Trade, ComEd is preparing a new generation of diverse and bright young leaders to pursue family-sustaining careers.”
Students participating in the program receive hands-on experience by observing line workers in the field, learning about safety protocols and how to use hand-operated tools, networking with ComEd employees, and learning to apply mathematics in the energy industry by preparing for the Construction and Skilled Trades (CAST) exam, required for trade and construction jobs.
The program introduces 17- to 19-year-old current high school students to careers in the trades as an alternative to a college degree. Moreover, the program provides students with resources to consider jobs in the energy/utilities field specifically – an area expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead to support the clean energy transformation underway in Illinois. The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) estimates 2,000 new utility jobs will be created in the Midwest in the next three years alone.
ComEd partners with the Boys & Girls Club in Rockford and UCAN Chicago to recruit students to apply for Tools of the Trade. Applications open in the spring, and students can apply through either organization.
"The Boys & Girls Club of Rockford believes that introducing our members to the skilled trades will open avenues of opportunity for youth in our region,” said Denise Noe, chief development officer, Boys & Girls Club. "Our partnership with ComEd and the Tools of the Trade program introduces careers in the rapidly growing energy industry to youth who may not have been aware of the potential these fields provide. We're grateful to be part of a program that provides so much pote, ntial to youth in our region and to celebrate the graduating class."
“UCAN has a firm commitment to workforce development and solid reputation for providing a range of support and resources to young adults in that space,” said Christa Hamilton, president and CEO, UCAN. “Our successful collaboration with ComEd in the Tools of the Trade program is a great example of how we help youth find the power of their potential, now and going forward. We are pleased to be an active part of a summer program that addresses the shortage of workers in skilled trades by providing youth with exposure and experience in a real-world environment. We congratulate them on graduating from such an impactful program.”
Since the Tools of the Trade program first launched in 2016, 108 students have graduated. In 2019, the program expanded to include Rockford to make it more accessible to students across ComEd’s service territory. This year’s graduating class included 10 students from Rockford and 15 students from Chicago, and 76% of the cohort are minorities.
“This program opened my eyes to how good the trades are for our society and how it can be a path to a successful career. This experience inspired me to switch from pursuing a degree in economics at my community college and instead pursue the trades,” said Tanner Habben-Crandall, 2022 graduate and a resident of Sterling, Ill. “After graduating from Tools of the Trade I plan to apply at ComEd for an entry-level position in overhead and in five years I hope I can call myself a journeyman lineman at ComEd.”
Students who are interested in participating in the next session of Tools of the Trade should contact [email protected] to learn when the application is open in 2023.
Tools of the Trade graduates are eligible to continue skill building through other ComEd-sponsored job training programs, including Craft Academy, ComEd’s CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy and the Overhead Electrical Line Worker (OELW) program at Dawson Technical Institute, which has graduated over 435 residents with 61% of them hired to ComEd.