Building Career Pathways

PG&E plays an important role fostering economic vitality and building career opportunities within the communities we serve. Our workforce development strategy is to look for industry-driven needs, engage in public-private partnerships that share our level of commitment and emphasize underserved communities in our outreach to build a skilled, diverse and qualified talent pool.

Rising to the Challenge

According to the National Commission on Energy Policy’s Task Force on America’s Future Energy Jobs, the energy industry faces a critical shortage of trained professionals to maintain the existing electric power system and to design, build and operate the energy systems of the future.

Estimates show that by the end of 2013, as many as 40 percent of electric utility employees will be eligible for retirement. In addition, the industry will have to replace about 58,000 skilled craft workers and 11,000 engineers, while adding 150,000 skilled craft workers over the next decade to accommodate massive infrastructure and technology investments.

PG&E forecasts that more than 40 percent of its workforce will become eligible for retirement within the next five years. These expected retirements include the ranks of workers needed to build, operate and maintain our vital infrastructure, creating new opportunities for those interested in utilities and energy sector careers.

Recognition by the White House and a partnership with The Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future has distinguished our efforts in workforce development as a best practice for the utilities industry.

There is no single solution to building and sustaining the skilled and qualified workforce PG&E needs to thrive in the long-term. Meeting this challenge requires taking a holistic, integrated approach.

One important area of focus is recruiting and training new, talented employees to join our workforce, and we are taking a multi-faceted approach to doing so—conducting targeted outreach, building partnerships with diverse organizations and creating a pipeline of prospective employees through strong partnerships with universities and community colleges.

Complementing these efforts, our multi-faceted recruiting strategy involves extensive community outreach and collaboration with organizations around the country. In 2011 alone, our recruiting staff attended more than 90 events, giving potential candidates the opportunity to meet our employees and learn first-hand about PG&E. In addition, we utilize LinkedIn and Facebook to advertise opportunities and source candidates.

We also offer summer internships and entry-level engineer and other rotational programs for new college graduates to introduce young professionals to new work experiences and career development opportunities.

Partnering through PowerPathway™

PG&E’s PowerPathway™ is a core component of our workforce development strategy—a model that enables PG&E to help California produce the skilled and diverse workers needed by PG&E and the energy and utilities industry.

Through PowerPathway™, PG&E partnered with the Center for Energy Workforce Development on a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) to contribute to the national rollout of energy literacy curriculum into high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics frameworks across California.

The PowerPathway™ Training Network, which includes partnerships with 24 public community colleges and universities, focuses on cultivating career pathways that strengthen community access to and employee progression into new energy jobs. For example, the program recently kicked off an Energy Workforce Sector Strategy, the first step in getting alignment and coordination around the creation of commercial business energy-efficiency jobs.

Key accomplishments of the network in 2011 included:

Training Network 2011 Highlights
Skilled Crafts
  • Graduating more than 240 students from 10 Bridge to Utility Worker programs, including 150 military veterans. Nearly 60 percent of the students were diverse. Additionally, about 60 percent of the graduates were hired into PG&E or the energy industry. PG&E employs graduates in positions such as gas and electric construction utility worker, power plant technician, gas service representative, communication technician and equipment operator.
  • Completing a fourth year of the Capstone to Utility Welding program at Butte College in Chico from which PG&E has consistently hired 6 to 10 apprentice welders each year.
  • Completing a second year of the Certificate in Electrical and Power Systems at the College of San Mateo from which PG&E and other employers source apprentice electrical technician positions.
Clean Tech Vehicles
  • Completing training for PG&E’s fleet mechanics on hybrid vehicle repair and maintenance. After receiving instruction from a PG&E master mechanic, the newly trained faculty of seven community colleges taught the same curriculum to 225 PG&E fleet mechanics.
  • This approach lowered PG&E’s operational costs and expanded the community college system’s capacity to teach the curriculum to others.
Energy Efficiency and Renewables
  • Launching a graduate-level Certificate in Integrated Energy Solutions at California State University, East Bay on the fundamentals of energy efficient building engineering, sustainable construction practices and integrated energy efficiency solutions.
  • Launching a course in Energy Efficiency Business Development at the Workforce Institute (a division of San Jose/Evergreen Community College District) on energy industry fundamentals and energy solutions sales and service.
Engineering and Smart Grid
  • Building a coalition of Bay Area community colleges to commit to developing a graduate-level curriculum on Smart Grid Power Engineering.
  • Launching statewide market research to define the range of occupations impacted by the Smart Grid and skills needed.

Building Career Pathways for Line Workers

Working closely with the IBEW, PG&E launched a new effort in 2011: the pre-apprentice line worker program. This initiative illustrates our commitment to preparing our workforce for success and serves as a model for the way we approach training.

To develop the program, we formed a joint Utility and union committee and sought extensive input from employees. We also conducted industry benchmarking, research and site visits with other utilities to identify best practices. Candidates receive formal training and assessments; those who complete the one-year probationary program will become apprentice linemen, the beginning of a multi-year apprenticeship. We expect to hire up to 60 new pre-apprentice linemen in 2012.

PowerPathway™ complements PG&E’s training capacity as our organization strives to build and sustain a skilled and qualified workforce. For example, in alignment with the pre-apprentice lineworker program, PowerPathway™ created a Pole Climbing Capstone course to help foster diverse candidates with more rigorous pole climbing training experience. As part of the course, students will be offered 120 hours, or three weeks, of pole climbing instruction.

Adding this course to the roster of PowerPathway offerings enables PG&E to continue to support lineworker candidates for the energy and utilities industry. The first course was offered in 2012 at PG&E’s newly constructed pole climbing training facility in Oakland, California.

Students qualify to enroll in the Pole Climbing Capstone course after completing a Bridge to Utility Worker training prerequisite.

Focusing on Veterans

PG&E recognizes the valuable skills and perspectives veterans of our armed forces can offer companies looking for qualified employees to replace an aging workforce. In fact, recruiting veterans is a focus for PG&E, which hired 225 veterans in 2011 or about 7 percent of our total hires.

Troops to Energy Jobs

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is one of five utilities taking part in Troops to Energy Jobs, an initiative launched by the Center for Energy Workforce Development to build national awareness among retired or exiting military personnel on opportunities available in the utilities sector that match skills learned during military service.

Additionally, PG&E is taking steps to recruit and assist military members as part of its PowerPathway™ Bridge to Utility Worker programs. Through 2011, PowerPathway™ conducted six courses serving only recently discharged veterans.

PG&E assists with the Transition Assistance Program, a Department of Defense program that provides career coaching and tools for returning veterans. PG&E also works with organizations such as ProjectHIRED, a nonprofit that helps veterans with disabilities find jobs.

Within PG&E, the Utility has quickly grown a veterans’ Employee Resource Group, which is open to all employees regardless of veteran status, as well as honorary membership to PG&E retirees and family members of the military. The group began last fall with five members and now numbers more than 100.

Looking Forward

With a large number of eligible retirees, PG&E’s workforce development efforts will focus on aligning with the PG&E’s mid- and long-term hiring and talent pipeline needs.

PowerPathway™ will continue to offer and build out post-secondary career pathways through our four training networks. One area of focus will be expanding our existing curriculum and programs across PG&E’s service area to provide more training locally. Additionally, PG&E will leverage the Energy Sector Workforce Strategy to explore new training opportunities and work to embed programs into the standard course of study that colleges and universities offer.

PowerPathway™ will also expand its offerings through partnerships with community-based workforce training providers with a continued emphasis on training veterans and a growing focus on bringing more women into the utility workforce.

In partnership with the Center for Energy Workforce Development, PG&E will continue to collaborate with high schools, community colleges and the workforce investment system to implement Get Into Energy Career Pathways to increase career awareness of energy and utilities careers. PG&E also plans to engage stakeholders across the utilities sector value chain such as suppliers and customers with the goal of increasing the number of employers that provide career opportunities to PowerPathway graduates.

By leveraging our partnerships across the state and industry, we will collaborate to build a more skilled, diverse and qualified workforce to sustain the changing landscape of the energy and utilities industry.