After leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, Frankie Gonzales and Thomas Boothe were both looking for jobs where they could work in the field.
At Tucson Electric Power, they found a company that welcomes veterans and allows them to access GI Bill benefits while going through on-the-job training.
TEP is a Troops to Energy employer that actively recruits military veterans and seeks to match military skills with utility positions. Military veterans make up about 12 percent of our company’s workforce.
As an extra incentive, employees in apprenticeship programs can continue to use their GI Bill benefits. Because they don’t need the money for tuition and books, qualified veterans receive monthly housing stipends.
“It’s a pretty nice benefit that we can offer our veterans,” said Jamie Carpenter, a TEP Learning and Development Specialist who oversees the apprenticeship program.
Those who qualify for rigorous apprenticeship programs train for about four years for highly skilled jobs, including line construction, substations and metering. Apprentices work and earn salaries while preparing to pass tests and demonstrate skills to become journeymen.
“We make a pretty good wage on our own. Then, we get the GI Bill,” Gonzales said. “It’s a great perk.”
After leaving the military in 2010, Gonzales worked in mines in Southern Arizona. On a day off, he attended a career fair at TEP. He learned that Southwest Energy Solutions, a TEP contractor, was hiring veterans.
“It was along the lines of what I wanted to get into after the Marine Corps – being outside, doing manual labor. Climbing poles is cool,” Gonzales said.
At one point, Gonzales had considered using the GI Bill for a trade school. But he found out that he could get the benefit at TEP, as well.
Gonzales called Boothe, a childhood friend from Willcox, to tell him about the apprenticeship opportunity. Boothe was working as a security contractor in Afghanistan at the time and he decided to come home.
Now, Gonzales uses the GI Bill money to make extra payments on his house. Boothe bought a new house in Tucson, while keeping one in Willcox.
While Boothe appreciates the additional income, he said he enjoys his job so much that “I’d be here with or without it.”
TEP also offers an internship program for military veterans who are transitioning out of the service. The program has hosted 50 interns in the past two years. Additionally, TEP has a special section on the career webpage page for veterans and regularly recruits veterans at job fairs.