EDUCATION

Utility partners with vo-tech schools to train students for clean energy jobs

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

Atlantic City Electric wants to make sure students are ready for careers of the future, and they’re investing millions of dollars to do so.

“This is not just about creating jobs in southern New Jersey, it’s about creating careers for people. We have an aging workforce that’s continuing to retire. It’s programs like this that we need to help train the next generation to fill those jobs and be able to help create the grid for tomorrow,” said Dave Velazquez, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings, the parent company of Atlantic City Electric.

The electric company is funding a six-year, $6.5 million initiative for a workforce development program. It’s being implemented through a partnership with three South Jersey vo-tech schools, including the Atlantic County Institute of Technology where the initiative was launched.

The program is focused on educating and training students for future clean energy jobs and it starts in interactive electrical classrooms.

“So they learn for residential, commercial and industrial. And now this great opportunity with Atlantic City Electric, because we’re actually going to be able to go to their site, their training facility, and see what they do,” said Atlantic County Institute of Technology instructor Susan Helsel.

Helsel is a union electrician during the summer but works as an electrical instructor at the vo-tech during the school year. She says technology and clean energy are making a difference in her classes.

“The curriculum is definitely changing, just with LED lighting and the low-voltage cable. Instead of hooking them up you’re plugging things in. The alternative energy is a must right now,” said Helsel.

The initiative is made up of four programs — Get into Math and Bootcamp, Women in Sustainable Employment Pathway, Atlantic City Electric Line School and High School Energy Career Academy.

“We deal with those who are 18 and up. And we try to give them the skills that they need to meet the demands of our local employers,” said Rhonda Lowery, executive director of the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board.

The launch comes just months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law into legislation to advance New Jersey’s clean energy economy and create more clean energy technologies like solar and wind.

“Trying to create offshore wind, not too far from here, and then you have solar energy that you’re trying to bring into the communities,” said New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Upendra J. Chivukula. “All those program are coming and these youngsters are going to be walking into a tremendously automated field and distributive generation. It’s going to be exciting.”

For now, the workforce program is free and available to high school students and anyone 21 and under in six South Jersey counties. Classes are set to start January 2019.