TEP has partnered with Southwest Gas to create a new program for Pima Community College, or PCC, that prepares students for a variety of utility careers.
The new Energy Technology Certificate program is part of our company’s longstanding support of education and job creation. The certificate will be offered starting this fall. The two-semester program builds on a previous collaboration among TEP, Pima Community College and four other Arizona colleges on a grant to develop an energy industry training program called Get Into Energy.
After grant funding ended, TEP and PCC decided to revamp the classes to give students broader exposure to utility jobs. Southwest Gas approached Pima about joining the group to add gas-related courses. The change will expand students’ employment opportunities.
“Part of Pima Community College’s mission focuses on meeting the needs of the community, including engaging industry to increase the skilled workforce within Pima County,” said Greg Wilson, PCC’s Dean of Applied Technology. “This is a stronger program due to input from industry partners.”
Students learn the fundamentals of the energy industry and technical math, along with gas and electrical techniques, while earning nationally recognized credentials. Upon completion, students will be qualified to apply for jobs with TEP and Southwest Gas as well as with utility contractors and related employers.
“This opens up doors for students. Through the certificate program, students will have a platform to build on for their futures,” said JoLee Bracamonte, a TEP Talent Acquisition Specialist in Human Resources.
Brittney Schmidt, Southwest Gas’ Supervisor in Engineering, said the program will help fill a need for entry-level workers, especially for Southwest Gas’s contractors that have difficulty retaining employees.
“Southwest Gas is excited about the direction we’re heading with this partnership with TEP,” Schmidt said. “Through the classes, students can evaluate if they have a knack for the jobs. Students who come out of classes are much more likely to stay with those jobs.”
While Pima has yet to offer the new certificate, utility classes have been ongoing, including sessions at TEP’s Irvington campus and H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station.
“This gives us an opportunity to see how the students work, and it gives the students a chance to figure out their passions,” said Dylan Bearce, Director of Tucson Power Production.
Two of the TEP instructors are David Wagner, Director of Transmission & Distribution Line Construction and Metering, who has taught for 12 years, and Tom Kaminski, a T&D Supervisor, who recently began his third semester heading the Electric Utility Technology class.
Kaminski teaches at the Ken Saville Training Center and invites colleagues from other departments as guest speakers so students are exposed to other avenues at TEP. Most students start the semester wanting to be Linemen, but many end up interested in other jobs.
Pima plans to enroll more than 50 students a year in the revamped program, which may expand if there is higher demand. More than 300 students have taken previous classes, Wilson said.
“The new program gives us a lot of opportunities to attract more students and provide pipelines for our companies and our contractors,” Schmidt said. “The key is that everyone is finding value in this – the utilities, the college and specifically, the students.”