Consortium Works to Interest Michigan Students in Future Energy Jobs

A consortium of Michigan energy companies is working to recruit and train high school and college students for future jobs in the state’s energy industry, which is expected to grow steadily for the next several years.
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The Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium is working to prepare high school and college students for jobs in Michigan’s growing energy industry. // Photo courtesy of DTE Energy

A consortium of Michigan energy companies is working to recruit and train high school and college students for future jobs in the state’s energy industry, which is expected to grow steadily for the next several years.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity reports that more than 111,000 Michigan residents currently work in energy-related occupations. That number is estimated to increase by 6 percent through 2026.

Energy companies have hired more than 3,200 new employees since January 2018, and annually offer students more than 900 internships and co-op positions. At the same time, many jobs are opening up due to retiring baby boomers.

The Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium (MEWDC) was formed in 2008 to make those introductions and help feed the pipeline for future energy jobs. Each year, it sponsors Careers in Energy Week when Michigan schools and energy companies open their doors for tours, hands-on activities, and demonstrations. The 2019 event took place last week.

“While skilled workers for these positions are in demand, many students aren’t aware of the vast array of career opportunities that exist in this sector,” says Marcia Black-Watson, industry engagement division administrator for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity – Workforce Development. “That’s why for one week each October, educators and industry leaders join forces to spark students’ interest and encourage them with the theme Get Into Energy.”

Consortium participants include DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, API, Great Lakes Energy, Michigan Electric and Gas Association (MEGA), Lansing Board of Water and Light, and more than 50 industry, workforce, and education partners.

“This is a great opportunity for industry, education, and government partners to work together and raise awareness of the many career paths in the energy industry,” says Tracy DiSanto, manager of Workforce Planning and Analytics at DTE, and co-chair of the MEWDC. “Across the state, students got a first-hand look at a variety of in-demand careers vital to Michigan’s future.”

Since its founding, the MEWDC has:

  • Collaborated with the Michigan Department of Education to create a roadmap for high school, career and technical education, and community college students to prepare for energy sector jobs. This has led to more than 300 students earning national certificates of Energy Industry Fundamentals.
  • Increased the number of registered apprentices in energy-related jobs by more than 350, with help from a federal grant.
  • Received a competitive grant in 2015 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for Talent Pipeline Management.
  • Partnered with Consumers Energy to create the nation’s first Talent Pipeline Academy to help Michigan businesses enhance their talent sources and hire skilled workers to meet critical short- and long-term needs.

In addition, consortium members Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have continued their gold-level veteran-friendly employer status from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, provided substantial financial and volunteer support for FIRST Robotics teams across the state, and provided more than $4.1 million in grants to energy education at schools and nonprofit groups over the past year through their foundations.

“The next generation of jobs will require a new wave of talented people with the right technical skills to help us embrace a clean energy future for our state,” says Cathy Hendrian, senior vice president of people and culture for Consumers Energy.

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