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Meeting the Challenge to Ready Minority Candidates for Utility Careers

7Newswire

GREENSBURG, Pa.Feb. 11, 2024 /7Newswire — FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) has awarded an $85,000 grant to the Energy Innovation Center Institute (EICI) to assist with its efforts to recruit, train and prepare diverse candidates from economically distressed Pennsylvania communities for apprenticeships and similar programs offered by electric, natural gas, communication and water utilities throughout the state.

FirstEnergy’s corporate grant will supplement EICI resources for computers, training equipment, training stipends and curriculum development to help diverse candidates to be ready to complete a utility apprenticeship program if selected. The grant aligns with FirstEnergy’s core value of championing a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds are welcomed.

Utilities face the challenge of backfilling their rapidly aging workforces with employees representative of the demographics of their service areas, often struggling to recruit, vet and train diverse candidates who are ready for entry into apprenticeship programs. Pittsburgh-headquartered EICI helps address this challenge through its Infrastructure Academy (IA), an innovative critical infrastructure and utility-workforce recruiting and training initiative to position minority candidates for successful utility careers. Candidates are subject to rigorous screening and training for selection to highly competitive apprenticeship and training programs.

Scott Wyman, President of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania Operations: “The need for skilled utility workers across our Pennsylvania service area continues as our most experienced employees retire. We are pleased to provide funding to help the Infrastructure Academy establish a pool of diverse candidates ready to enter apprenticeship and job-training programs offered by FirstEnergy and other utility companies. It is crucial to have a workforce that reflects the communities it serves and takes pride in the work it does.”

EICI works with multiple utilities to connect stranded talent in disadvantaged communities with skills-based jobs around them through IA. The curriculum includes:

  • Strategies to navigate the highly competitive climbing programs necessary to be admitted into apprenticeships.
  • Life skills needed for on-the-job success, including effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Training and testing on safety, knot tying and using the tools of the trade.

EICI operates training facilities in southwestern and eastern Pennsylvania and is expanding its reach throughout the state. Five regulated utility partners with service areas in seven states participate in IA, and the institute expects to add more companies in coming months.

Rich DiClaudio, President and CEO of the EICI: “We are excited to have FirstEnergy join our growing group of utility and infrastructure employer partners. FirstEnergy’s grant provides meaningful support to advance the programming of the Infrastructure Academy and solve the growing skills-based human capital problem in the industry. FirstEnergy and our other utility partners are committed to taking tangible steps to ensure a well-trained, effective, safe and diverse workforce reflective of the service areas in which they operate.”

Approximately 3,700 of EICI’s graduates are employed, including many in the utility and critical infrastructure industries in Pennsylvania and throughout the Appalachian region. Nearly 90% of its graduates are people of color who average 29 years old. About 86% of its graduates have received employment with a six-month retention rate of 74%.

Founded in 2016, EICI is an innovative and rapidly scaling 501c3 organization designed to provide skills-based workforce training for people from disadvantaged communities, veterans and others with barriers to workforce entry, as well as incumbent worker upskilling and training. The EICI advises companies, regulators and governing bodies on various aspects of the clean energy transition and offers effective community benefits plans and Justice40 offerings for many partner organizations doing business with federal and state governments.

FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its electric distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving more than six million customers in OhioPennsylvaniaNew JerseyWest VirginiaMaryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Visit FirstEnergy online at firstenergycorp.com and follow FirstEnergy on X, formerly known as Twitter, @FirstEnergyCorp.

Editor’s Note: Photos of FirstEnergy presenting a grant check to the Energy Innovation Center Institute and touring the facility are available for download on Flikr.

SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.