Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced last month at the White House its commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the long-term unemployed and veteran populations. This will be done through PowerPathway™, PG&E's successful workforce development program.
In 2014, PG&E will build upon PowerPathway by:
- Conducting two PowerPathway workforce development programs in California's Fresno region for the long-term unemployed, focusing on long-term unemployed veterans.
- Providing 48 individuals with resume building and interview skills, technical training, education and other transferrable skills that can be used to help obtain a job in the skilled craft and utility industry.
The White House event, focused on long-term unemployment, started with PG&E Apprentice Lineman Erick Varela introducing President Barack Obama. Last April, Varela represented PG&E at the White House in a forum on job prospects for veterans in the utility industry.
At the event, PG&E committed to creating a local awareness campaign in partnership with regional stakeholders and to exploring the scalability and ability to replicate the success of PowerPathway. The program will target the long-term unemployed and veteran populations through state and federal utility organizations, including the California Energy and Utility Workforce Consortia and the Center for Energy Workforce Development.
PG&E Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley, a former U.S. Navy officer, is committed to creating career paths for the long-term unemployed and veterans. "We are pleased to have PG&E sign on to the President's initiative today," Earley said. "Unemployment rates are as high as 29 percent for young veterans like Erick – about 65 percent above those for other Americans in the same age group. PG&E has the opportunity to match our workforce needs with the great technical skills and leadership ability that veterans and other young people looking for work offer."
PowerPathway works with educators to lay the foundation for developing new training and credentialing courses aimed at producing skilled workers needed for new energy jobs of the future.
In 2014, these efforts will be focused on the greater Fresno area, which continues to experience unemployment rates above the state and national average. In August 2013, approximately 52,400 Fresno County residents were out of work and seeking jobs. In 2016, the Fresno metro region unemployment rate is forecast to be 10.7 percent, much higher than current projections for the rest of California.
The energy and transportation industry represents about 10 percent of all employment opportunities in the Fresno region, with many of these jobs requiring specialized skills and education, such as those provided by PowerPathway. The program provides the education and skills training necessary to support individuals seeking not only jobs, but careers in the energy sector.
"It was an honor to introduce President Obama before the discussion on the challenges many veterans and those who've been out of work for an extended period of time experience," said Varela, a former U.S. Army combat infantryman for the 82nd Airborne Division. "PG&E is a leader in the movement to help veterans, and I am glad to see the company is expanding its outreach to the long-term unemployed. The only reason why I have a story to tell is because of PG&E and PowerPathway. I love my job and every time someone turns on a light switch, I know I have a direct impact."
PowerPathway was launched in 2008 in collaboration with local community colleges. As of 2013, PG&E has filled 211 vacancies with veterans, 146 of which were outside hires or about seven percent of the utility's total external hires.