and social service groups with minorities
from several neighborhoods in the Chicago
and northern Illinois region. All of this, in
addition to traditional training programs
which help retrain and refocus the current
workforce, is focused on a universal point:
Getting them ready for what’s coming and
what’s already happening.
For instance, Marquez added, ComEd
must find ways to incorporate readers who
have been moved out of jobs by advanced
build a solar-powered race car out of old
refrigerators. They race for prizes, pride
and fun at the end of the summer program.
The Chicago-based utility also kicked off its
“Stay in School” program around 12 years
ago, focusing on districts with dropout
rates as high as 50 percent. Now the graduation rate is closer to 90 percent for those
participating in the “Stay” program.
Another program, “CONSTRUCT,”
brings together utilities, construction firms
the need for technical field employees will
be there for the foreseeable future.
The tools change but they still need
trained workers who know how to use
them. Once we measured distance with
tape and now we use lasers. The T-square
is replaced by AutoCAD.
One thing that never changes is that
workers need to know the clear objectives of their training and duties. For Ana
Sarver, who heads up fleet operations for
Pacific Gas & Electric, each rollout of
new technologies to be used in the company’s vehicles will require “just in time”
training for its mechanics. This includes
understanding the components of a new
electric power take-off aerial system rolling out in September.
“When it comes to developing and
retaining the best talent to help us ensure
the safe and reliable operation of our
fleet, we started with the end in mind,
that is to say that we asked the questions,
‘What is it that we expect and need our
mechanics to do?’ And the follow to that
question is ‘How do we support them to
meet or exceed that goal?’” she said.
Such on-the-fly training is crucial for
the existing workforce, of course, but utilities are also going back to the beginning.
They are encouraging and helping fund
new educational programs emphasizing
the science, technology, engineering and
math (STEM) disciplines in school districts. ComEd has numerous commitments
to schools and reaches out to students of
all racial, gender and economical profiles.
“As we looked into the future, we knew
we needed to introduce the concept of
STEM,” Marquez said. “We’re beyond
the high school level, we’re at the middle
school level. Whether they come to work
for a utility or not, every aspect of STEM
touches our lives in so many ways.”
ComEd volunteers mentor the young-
er generation through various programs,
including an “Icebox Derby” where
female students partner with engineers to