Arizona Public Service Ensuring the Applicant Pipeline
If finding qualified job applicants is a challenge, why not grow your own from scratch?
This type of creative problem-solving has paid off for Arizona Public Service (APS), where a bit of warehouse space-turned classroom, a couple of retirees-turned instructors, and the support of a local vocational institute and community college have transformed numerous high school students into highly skilled and successful entry-level electric power plant workers.
An impressive 95 percent of students taking part in this program a joint partnership between APS, Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) and Northland Pioneer College (NPC) have gone on to accept jobs in the energy industry or to pursue a higher education, said Dan Nicholas, Fossil Joint Apprenticeship Program Coordinator at APS.
“They come out of this class as semi-skilled workers,” he said. “They learn about safety issues, personal protective equipment, hand tools, packing and gaskets, piping, pumps, valves, alignments and bearings. They are really getting a leg up for when they come in to test for one of our full-time positions.”
Over the past five years, the utilities in the area have hired 60 graduating NAVIT/NPC students as full-time workers in operations and maintenance. Many of them are now earning more than $50,000 per year. “It has given them an incredible start,” said Nicholas.
The NAVIT program, which offers Arizona students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credits, takes place for three hours every school day, five days a week, in a makeshift classroom in the back of a warehouse on the grounds of APS Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City. The company plans to construct a new classroom building onsite later this year. The same program takes place at the Salt River Project’s (SRP) Coronado Generating Station in St. Johns, while the SRP Navajo Generating Station in Page is working on the development of a similar program. A fourth program is planned for a plant in Four Corners.
During class time, students engage in computer-based training and also use a curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education Research (NCCER). In addition, they have the option of “job shadowing” operations and maintenance workers, who some have chosen to do on their own time to learn as much about the company as possible.
One student has logged 180 hours of job shadowing on his own time, Nicholas said. “Do you think that person’s serious about wanting a job in the industry?” he asked. “I do.”
At the completion of the two-year program, students earn national certifications for their hands-on training, Nicholas said. Some will apply for entry-level positions at APS and other power companies, while others may decide to continue with a secondary education. Recently, APS launched an internship program, which will draw from the students in the NAVIT/NPC program.
“We’re going to put them out in the real work environment and let them actually engage in the work that we do,” said Nicholas, explaining that this program was supported by the local union (IBEW Local 387). “The internship will give them the hands-on experience that all employers look for.”
The NAVIT/NPC program is “driven by industry, for industry,” with an advisory board composed of representatives from APS, TEP, SRP and other local industries, Nicholas said. The board reviews curriculum and makes sure the classes and hands-on experiences continue to meet today’s energy workforce needs.
The NAVIT program is paid for by the state, not the students, who apply from surrounding school districts for up to 20 slots each year. Nicholas said he takes great pride in working with these students and seeing them successfully compete for jobs in the company when they graduate.
“When these young adults get hired on, I kind of feel like a step-dad,” he said. “Essentially what this is doing is growing our future.”
That’s a step APS and others in the industry have long needed to take, Nicholas added, given the aging workforce and the looming skilled worker shortage.
“If we’re not putting something in the pipeline,” he said, “we can’t expect something to come out the other end.”
For more information about this program, contact Dan Nicholas at Daniel.Nicholas@aps.com or 928-288-1417, or visit www.navit.k12.az.us.
At the Workforce Innovations Conference, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is set to release its latest resource to help energy and other high growth industries solve the workforce development puzzle with its Workforce Solutions Catalogue. A multi-year effort, the catalogue features over 300 industry-based solutions developed by the President’s High Growth and Community-Based Job Training Grants. These solutions include curriculum, competency models, distance learning tools, career awareness and outreach materials, research findings, case studies, career lattices, Web sites and more. ETA is now disseminating these solutions to the public workforce system, education system, business and industry, and other partners in hopes of further stimulating regional economic development strategies and partnerships.
A synopsis of each solution is included in the catalogue. You can also search and download all of the solutions and the Workforce Solutions Catalogue for free on Workforce3One (www.workforce3One.org), ETA’s dynamic Web space designed for sharing innovative resources, tools and learning events with workforce and education professionals.
Additional information about High Growth grantees is available through the High Growth Job Training Initiative Investment Center at www.doleta.gov/BRG/HGJTIGrantees/. Information about Community-Based grantees is available through the Community-Based Job Training Investment Center at www.doleta.gov/BRG/CBJTGrants/. If you experience any difficulty accessing ETA’s workforce solutions, or if you have questions about a specific solution featured in the catalogue, contact the Business Relations Group at email@example.com or 202-693-3949.
Work Readiness A Solutions Guide
Having trouble finding job candidates who are not only interested in energy, but also qualified to work in the field? A lack of job readiness skills often keeps otherwise eager candidates out of the entry-level positions energy companies are seeking to fill.
The good news is that many states offer Career Readiness certificates to candidates who want to assure prospective employers that they have attained the necessary basic skills to begin a career. There are several types of certificates and levels of certification that may be awarded. There is also a National Work Readiness Credential, developed by the National Institute for Literacy.
To help members understand what these certificates signify, and how they can be helpful in hiring decisions, CEWD developed a Work Readiness Solutions Guide available in the “Members Only” section of its Web site: www.cewd.org/modelPrograms.asp.
The guide offers a list of states currently offering certificates, a description of the levels of certification, and information on how to start a Career Readiness Certificate program in your area if you don’t already have one.
Work Readiness credentials generally signify that the applicant has passed tests showing that they have the skills to: speak so that others can understand; listen actively; solve problems and make decisions; cooperate with others; resolve conflicts and negotiate; observe critically; take responsibility for learning; read with understanding; and use math to solve problems.
Workforce Innovations (link to http://www.workforceinnovations.org/)
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