Expanding Horizons for Youth and Veteran Employees at Consumers Energy
When it comes to workforce development, Consumers Energy (CE) tries to keep all of its bases covered. That's why the company launched two programs that aim at both ends of the workforce pipeline: Raising awareness of potential energy careers among high school students, and deepening the understanding of the energy business for veteran employees.
Telling high school students about their career options at a job fair can only go so far. But showing them what it's like from the inside gives them a much broader understanding of what it would be like to work in the industry. So CE developed its “Options” program, which invites high school sophomores to spend eight weeks during the summer learning about and working for the company. The program also teaches students what it takes to succeed in life in general.
This paid co-op assignment runs three days per week during the summer months, combining a classroom environment with an actual job assignment and mentoring at CE. Twelve students were selected for the program from a list of 39 recommended by Jackson High School, located in the same Michigan community as CE's corporate headquarters. While the program does not take students out in the field at this age, they are exposed to a wide range of opportunities within the company, then given jobs to do in an office or lab environment.
The program – a collaborative effort between CE, Junior Achievement, local public schools and the intermediate school district – also teaches students about ethics and how to communicate with and relate to others, skills the teens can use both in and outside the work environment.
“We really wanted to give back to the community,” Program Manager Mattie McKinney said. “Team work, ethics, interpersonal skills, these are things the students can use no matter what they decide to do with their lives.”
McKinney said the students would be invited back again next year and given increased exposure and opportunities to work within the company as they get older. Ultimately, CE hopes some may one day assume entry-level positions.
“We're looking at preparing them for entry level positions both in our professional and nonprofessional ranks,” McKinney said. “Not all students want a traditional four-year degree. Our thought is that by reaching out to them earlier, we hope to give the kids the exposure they need to increase their career options.”
CE has developed a different type of workforce development program, aimed at people needing broader exposure to the business and the industry. This 18-24 month program, called CE Utility Institute, works through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
“We have targeted certain jobs, managers and senior professionals to receive instruction that will help them increase their knowledge of the business and also the utility industry overall,” McKinney said.
Company officers identify employees they believe will benefit from the program, she said. University faculty as well as internal company experts instruct the classes on-site.
The program focuses on several areas: the energy industry; the customer; utility finance and accounting; operations; human resources; and managing change.
“We spend a lot of time training line workers, but we've also realized over the years that we need to invest more in our managers and other professionals as well,” she said. “With the aging workforce and potential retirements, we need a way to continue replenishing the knowledge base. Not just the technical aspect, but their business and leadership skills also.”
Need Help with Workforce Development? Don't Miss this Summit
It's not too late to register for the 2007 CEWD Summit, Roadmap to Success , being held Oct. 22-24 in Kansas City, MO. Learn about member best practices, innovative funding for new programs and partnerships, branding energy careers, and how to attract that new breed of young worker known as the Millennial! If you work in human resources, community relations, utility operations, or technical training for an electric, natural gas or nuclear power company, this summit is for you! Union representatives, career and technical educators, and members of workforce investment boards will also benefit from attending this summit.
Grant Writing Tool Kit Now Available to Members
Have you been approached by a community college that wants to help train tomorrow's energy workers? Do you have a unique idea for bringing industry, education and the local workforce together in your community? Then you should consider applying for a Federal grant!
If the idea sounds daunting, CEWD can help. We've developed a tool kit for members that includes everything you need to put together a successful grant application: A questionnaire to help you decide whether a grant application makes sense for your program; tips for developing and writing a successful grant proposal; a task list; a description of pertinent Federal forms; even details such as a checklist of important information to include in your cover page.
Grants can provide critical funding to help you join forces with local educational institutions and workforce boards so you can make the most of resources in your area. For more information on how to put together winning grant proposals, Download the Grant Writing tool kit from the Education & Program Development page in the Members Only section of the site.
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