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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, August 2015
WEB Exclusive story

Power Propositions

Events in Pennsylvania and California highlight models for talent development.

The Pittsburgh region currently has over 25,000 open jobs, with 2,500 of those concentrated in high-demand energy and related manufacturing occupations.
Photo by author

by Adam Bruns

wo energy workforce development announcements over the past few weeks were driven by factors as various as private-sector shale gas exploration and carbon emissions regulation. But they have some things in common: The need to fill thousands of jobs fast, and the drive to connect to military veterans in their quest to do so.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz and federal officials from the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs met with energy sector CEOs in the Pittsburgh region in mid-July to frame a unique public-private partnership that will help connect military veterans and service members to in-demand energy jobs in this region.

Convened by the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh (EAGP) — a partnership of energy sector-related businesses, universities, nonprofits and research organizations — the roundtable focused on the future of the energy sector and the need for a globally competitive, skilled energy workforce. EAGP is a program of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Innovation Works.

One of several energy-related projects emerging from the interdisciplinary minds cultivated at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University
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The CEOs and federal agency participants at the Roundtable agreed to execute three action steps that will accelerate training and hiring of transitioning service members and veterans into energy and manufacturing jobs:

  • Piloting a new program of career awareness, assessment and training at up to four military installations, leading to civilian certifications that will help transitioning service members explore and prepare for careers in the energy sector and related manufacturing jobs in the Pittsburgh region. The Department of Defense SkillBridge authority promotes civilian job training available to transitioning military service members and helps link military occupations to civilian careers. Potential jobs include: Industrial machinery mechanics, machinists, utility workers and CDL drivers with Hazmat certifications.
  • Increasing recruiting of un- and underemployed veterans already in the Pittsburgh region for in-demand jobs using the regional platform, a program of the Allegheny Conference, as well as the national Veterans Employment Center to increase career awareness and connect ready-to-work veterans with ready-to-hire employers.
  • Exploring further the creation of an interagency Energy Workforce Institute that would bring federal agencies together with universities, schools, industry and labor representatives, workforce development practitioners and apprenticeship programs across the Pittsburgh region to expedite training and hiring for energy and related manufacturing jobs.

“Pittsburgh is an ideal location to create the next-generation energy workforce, combining workforce training and advancing technologies," said Moniz. "The National Energy Technology Laboratory, one of 17 federal energy laboratories in the U.S., is located here. There is a growing energy sector due to the emergence of the shale gas industry, and there is strong support from community leaders. I think Pittsburgh is unique is bringing all of these strengths together in one place.

Pittsburgh's capacity for energy innovation extends to out-of-the-box ideas like SolePower, whose technology powers your mobile phone from your stride. Here co-founder Matt Stanton, a former Carnegie Mellon University mechanical engineering student, demonstrates the company’s energy-generating insoles, just as he did last summer at the first-ever White House Maker Faire.
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"A combination of factors, including continued technological advances and planned investments in the nation’s energy infrastructure, will create 1.5 million new jobs in the energy sector in the next 15 years," he continued. "We need to recruit, train and employ these workers to be ready to build and maintain our energy infrastructure and implement emerging technologies. This is truly an underappreciated opportunity for our nation. Now’s the time for us to take the lead and make our country more competitive globally.

The Pittsburgh region currently has over 25,000 open jobs, with 2,500 of those concentrated in high-demand energy and related manufacturing occupations. At the same time, the region faces a gap of about 140,000 potential workers as Baby Boomers retire over the coming years.

Programs such as ShaleNET, a natural gas training program developed by the Allegheny Conference in conjunction with education and training partners, have prepared hundreds of veterans for careers in the natural gas industry. Pittsburgh has been rated as the best place in the nation for veterans to pursue higher education and jump-start their civilian careers. The region is already home to about 200,000 veterans, and thousands more are expected to return in the next five years as 1 million service members transition out of the military.

Founded in 2010, ShaleNET has received $20 million in U.S. Department of Labor funding to develop and disseminate its education and training model. The program has trained over 6,000 participants, with more than 3,600 finding employment, more than a third of whom are veterans.

“We have seen firsthand the value that military veterans bring to the energy sector. At Peoples, we have hired veterans who have been ready to contribute from their first day on the job,” said Morgan O’Brien, CEO, Peoples Natural Gas and chair, Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

“We embarked on this partnership with the Departments of Energy, Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs late last year at the Hiring our Heroes event as we launched Service to Opportunity," said Dennis Yablonsky, EAGP co-chair and CEO of the Allegheny Conference. "Our regional online platform connecting veterans to employers. Today’s discussions are advancing our ongoing efforts to connect transitioning service members and veterans to the high-demand jobs in energy and manufacturing in this region."

Southpointe, seen here from the headquarters of simulation firm Ansys, is one Pittsburgh-area development that has seen massive job creation from the energy sector.
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“We see a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to develop a local workforce prepared for the skilled jobs that are anticipated in the growing regional energy and manufacturing industries,” said Nigel Hearne, president of Chevron Appalachia, based in Moon Township, Pa. “Chevron supports ShaleNET and Service to Opportunity to help connect young people entering the workforce, adults looking to re-train, and our returning military veterans with well-paying jobs that allow them to live, work, and thrive here in their hometowns.”

Transitions and Emissions

Out in California, a new website addresses the critical need for more highly skilled workers in California's advanced energy industry and promotes energy efficiency and utilities careers to students.

Developed by the California Community Colleges under the "Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and the Economy" framework, the website provides information about key initiatives and collaborations that assist the Advanced Energy industry in meeting priority education and training needs.

"Energy Efficiency and Utilities is a valued industry sector by many of California's regional economies," said Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of workforce & economic development for the California Community Colleges. Ton-Quinlivan is vice chair of the National Skills Coalition, co-chair of the Workforce Action Team of the California Economic Summit, serves on the California Council on Science and Technology, and served on the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Closing the Skills Gap Implementation Team.

PG&E Senior Vice President of Human Resources John Simon, center, accepted the Faraday Award along with PG&E Military Pipeline Outreach Strategist Dave Claveran, right. Matthew Sadinsky, CEO of Prequalified Ready Employees for Power, presented the award at the 18th Annual Electric Power Conference in Chicago in April.

In her previous role overseeing workforce development for PG&E, she conceived, developed and implemented PowerPathway, a best practice model program in workforce development recognized by the White House and industry. PowerPathway demonstrates that collaboration between industry, the public workforce system, education, and organized labor can effectively transition military veterans and members of underserved communities into well-paying energy sector jobs.

In April that program received the Faraday Award at the 18th Annual Electric Power Conference in Chicago. The award honors corporations that have successfully connected, employed and engaged veterans to become long-term employees in the power industry. Since the program’s inception six years ago in 2008, 600 people—including 300 veterans—have graduated with more than 80 percent having been hired by PG&E or the utility industry.

Estimated to be a $1.3-trillion global industry, the Advanced Energy industry is led by California through Silicon Valley technology and state policies mandating reductions in California's carbon emissions by the year 2020. As a result, at least 15,000 additional highly skilled workers are needed annually in California, according to Jim Caldwell, Energy Efficiency & Utilities Sector team navigator at California Community Colleges.

"Skill gaps grow as technology advances, while replacement of an aging workforce creates the statewide need for aggressive workforce development measures," Caldwell explains.

Guided by a statewide industry advisory council, EE&U Sector Team builds regional workforce collaboration with industry associations, labor associations, community-based organizations, and government agencies.

The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, composed of 72 districts and 113 colleges serving 2.1 million students per year.

"Our charge is the economy needs a million more industry valued middle-scale credentials," said Dr. Sunita Cooke, superintendent/president, MiraCosta Community College District, at an April meeting of the California Community Colleges' Task Force on Workforce. "The California community colleges are essential to that work."

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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