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 Working with solar panels at the workforce development program in 2019. Photo Courtesy of PECO. 
 Working with solar panels at the workforce development program in 2019. Photo Courtesy of PECO. 

Working from the ground up to expand Philadelphia's workforce

PECO is committed to its role as a leader in expanding career and workforce opportunities for residents across the Greater Philadelphia region.

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At PECO, creating a diverse and inclusive workforce that mirrors the communities it serves is paramount. 

Its workforce development initiative, which includes the Bright Solar Futures program, Smart Energy Technical Training program, and the Community College Gas Distribution Pipeline Mechanic Program, is one of the many initiatives PECO has as part of its efforts towards amplifying that diversity and inclusion. Each of these programs serves as part of PECO efforts to be a leader in developing the energy workforce of the future. 

“The goal of workforce development is to enhance the employment opportunities for individuals that live in the community,” said Lourdes Hernandez, senior corporate relations specialist at PECO.

This effort would, in turn, create a healthier local economy throughout the city, she added. 

PECO’s workforce development initiative focuses on four main priorities with the goal of training, educating and equipping local residents with the skills to enter a career in the city’s emerging energy industry. 

One of these priorities is leveraging community partnerships.

These various partnerships are utilized in a number of ways in order to execute programming that prepares work-ready adults within the region for careers both inside and outside of the company. 

Project H.O.M.E. is one such example of a community partnership that has reaped benefits, particularly for the veteran community. 

For nine years, PECO has collaborated with Project H.O.M.E. to sponsor the Veterans Training and Employment (VTE) Program. Graduates are matched with a paid six-month internship to gain the work experience that is necessary to re-enter the competitive job market. 

“Engaging our stakeholders is very critical to the success of our workforce development program,” said Hernandez. 

They play a key role in helping PECO reach the individuals who are most in need and make them aware of the resources that the company’s workforce development initiative provides.

The second priority is striving to reduce and eliminate barriers.

PECO has identified various barriers that make it difficult for many local residents and community members to take on possible employment opportunities.

Some of these barriers include a lack of a high school diploma or driver’s license, and in some cases having English as a second language.  

Through partnerships with local community organizations, PECO designs specific programs that directly address these barriers. Furthermore, PECO also advocates for internal and external practices that help reduce and eliminate those barriers. 

“Our goal and attempt is to upskill the community so that they are able to qualify for jobs that [provide] sustainable, living wages,” said Sabrina Brooks, senior manager of workforce development at PECO.

The third priority is investing in STEM awareness and education.

PECO’s outreach goes beyond the community, and extends out to schools, colleges and universities. 

“We have to start early,” said Hernandez. “We have programs in our middle and high schools that help to prepare students for whatever career they take, and we have a focus on STEM.”

PECO works in collaboration with the Philadelphia Youth Network and the Philadelphia Energy Authority to provide summer internship programs for high school and college students, where they can gain hands-on experience to further their education. 

In addition, PECO also has a co-op partnership with Drexel University that engages Drexel undergraduates in receiving six months of on-the-job training within their area of interest. 

“That’s another way to help create that pipeline that PECO needs,” added Hernandez. 

The final priority is serving as a thought leader in developing strategic workforce development programs across the region. 

All of these priorities coincide with PECO’s goal of making its workforce development initiative impactful for both students and work-ready adults in the region. 

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continuing to impact many people’s livelihoods and ability to work, PECO has been committed to expanding its efforts towards helping those who are seeking employment at PECO or within the energy sector. 

“We want to give them the proper skill set so that they can take on [available] positions,” said Brooks. 

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