PG&E, like utilities across the country, faces a wave of retirements over the next five years, with nearly 40 percent of its 21,000 employees eligible to trade paychecks for pension checks. This is a trend that concerns me as Chairman and CEO of PG&E.
To help build a pipeline of new skilled workers, PG&E created a workforce training program in 2008 called PowerPathway. The program is a partnership with community colleges and workforce investment boards in PG&E’s service area, which covers much of Northern and Central California.
Last year, nearly 250 students graduated from PowerPathway, and more than 81 percent of them were offered jobs at PG&E or elsewhere in the utility industry.
Not only is the program helping fill utilities’ need for skilled workers, it has also helped address unemployment in California and — notably — among military veterans returning from service. Veterans’ unemployment rates are far higher than the national average, and as a Navy veteran, I’m pleased to see PG&E create career paths targeting veterans and the long-term unemployed.
One graduate’s story, in particular, brings the program’s success to life. Erick Varela, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was homeless and jobless for almost a year when he was accepted to PowerPathway. Today, thanks to the training he received, he’s an IBEW apprentice electrician for PG&E. And in January 2014, Erick was chosen to introduce President Obama at the White House for an event highlighting the President’s initiative on long-term unemployment — an initiative PG&E is honored to support.