Economic Opportunities Program

PG&E PowerPathway ™

Fast Facts

  • Nearly $5 MM generated in partner grant funding
  • 71% of graduates hired into industry
  • 60% of participants from under-represented communities
  • 98% retention rate after 6 months of employment at PG&E

PowerPathway: An Introduction
By 2015, 46% of the country’s skilled energy and utility technician workforce will need to be replaced. To meet this shortfall in skilled labor, in 2008, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) created PowerPathway™, a collaborative workforce development model. This partnership is composed of PG&E, California community colleges, and universities, local workforce investment boards, community based training organizations, military installations, unions and industry employers, for the purpose of building a pipeline of skilled workers ready to enter California’s energy and utilities workforce.

This public-private partnership helps PG&E maintain a highly skilled and diverse workforce. Moreover, it allows educational institutions to expand their own resources to provide high-quality, employer-driven training. The partnership also ensures that individuals gain the necessary skills to begin or advance their careers in the energy and utilities industry.

PG&E has made a commitment to Skills for America’s Future to expand the PowerPathway program with a $1.5 million annual in-kind investment to community colleges and other partners through 2015.

How the Partnership Works
PowerPathway collaborates with community colleges, universities and community-based training partners to develop industry-informed career pathways, training and curriculum in response to growing energy industry and company workforce needs. Course offerings vary from semester to semester with four to eight courses typically available at any given time. Courses and/or programs are divided into two main categories:

  1. Signature: Customized coursework developed in partnership with PG&E prepares students for entry- and apprentice-level careers, including pre-employment testing, at PG&E and other utilities; applications undergo rigorous pre-screening; program enrollment is limited and eligibility requirements apply; courses may lead to certificates of completion and college credit.
  2. Affinity: Coursework developed in partnership with PG&E that focuses on skills specific to PG&E and other utilities hiring needs. Courses may lead to certificates of completion, college credit and AA degrees.

Industry employers, workforce investment boards, unions and two- and four-year postsecondary PGandE grapheducational institutions and community-based training organizations all contribute to make these programs and partnerships possible.

PG&E contributes by providing technical support, curriculum design, faculty “train-the-trainer” programs, co-delivery of classroom instruction, student field visits, in-kind donations of training equipment, employment and/or enlistment of additional employers to advise and hire, as well as program management, administration and funding.

Workforce investment boards pre-screen candidates to ensure successful completion rates, while California community colleges, universities and community-based educational partners house the training programs and adapt the curricula to meet evolving industry needs.

A Win for PG&E
PowerPathway helps PG&E increase the skills, diversity and industry know-how of the local talent pool, and creates opportunities for hiring workers from supported programs. For example, each year PG&E hires 6-10 apprentice welders—positions that are hard-to-fill—from the Capstone to Utility Welding program at Butte College. Together with its partners, PowerPathway provides a reliable pipeline of skilled workers that PG&E and other industry employers can count on to get the job done.

Value Proposition of Program
Program participants know they are acquiring marketable skills that will prepare them for work in the utility industry. Entry-level positions start around $25 per hour and provide opportunities for highly-skilled program graduates to begin and advance their careers in an industry where their expertise will continue to be in demand.

PG&E has focused recruitment for PowerPathway in underserved communities and among military veterans across its service territory, helping to strengthen job prospects for community members and ensuring workers have a connection to the communities they serve. From 2008 to 2012, PowerPathway has trained 340 students through 14 Bridge to Utility Worker programs, including 180 military veterans. Of those trained through Q1 2012, over 71% have been hired into industry-related positions, with a majority of those at PG&E. Given the success of PowerPathway, its programs will scale by over 250% to graduate over 250 students in 2013.

“Due to retirements, our hiring needs are increasing. Candidates who’ve completed the PowerPathway™ program are now my preferred choice to fill these positions. The simple fact is—they come better prepared to work in our industry.”

-Jody Garcia, PG&E Superintendent.

Skills for America's Future (SAF) is a non-partisan, employer-led initiative of the Aspen Institute. It is focused on creating a national network of partnerships among employers, community colleges, industry associations and other stakeholders. These partnerships are designed to ensure that American workers receive the necessary training to meet the skill needs of employers, giving them the opporunity to obtain and keep good jobs. 

For more information about how your company can partner with community colleges and Skills for America's Future, contact saf@aspeninstitute.org