I’ve always been one to try to achieve and climb up the ladder. If the plant wasn’t closing down, I would be really striving to run the control room, but things didn’t go that way, so I just found a different ladder to climb. This was my lifeline, and an amazing opportunity.
From Coal to Computers: SRP Apprenti Program Trains Former NGS Employees for Careers in Technology
As Navajo Generating Station owners prepare to close the coal-fired power plant later this year, former NGS employees such as Skyler June are making the transition from an industrial to office setting, and getting accustomed to city life.
“I just came down from Navajo Generating Station (in Page). I worked at the plant for almost 11 years as an operation and maintenance specialist, where I watched the water, steam, fire and coal systems,” explained 33-year-old June. “I’ve always been good at different jobs, but a quiet office is definitely a different environment from being in a potentially hazardous, safety-critical setting.”
June is one of 10 former NGS employees being retrained to be an Information Technology business analyst at SRP through the creation of one of the state’s first tech-apprenticeships, called Apprenti. The innovative retraining program received funding from the Coconino County Career Center and is taught by instructors from Coconino Community College and Northern Arizona University.
“The goal of the Apprenti program at SRP is to provide exceptional opportunities to highly skilled employees during the redeployment of NGS,” said Tina Drews, SRP’s director of Talent Management. “Information technology is a growing area, especially in the utility industry, and we want to provide apprenticeships that will fill our needs for the work force of the future. In addition, our apprentices from NGS bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about operations, and that can be hard to find in traditional IT professionals.”
Apprenti was introduced to SRP through the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation in early 2018. It became a solution to address the redeployment effort of NGS employees into Phoenix-area positions. SRP partnered with Apprenti, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operated by the Washington Technology Industry Association, to reskill NGS employees for mid-level IT business analyst positions. Apprenti is a registered apprenticeship program for careers in technology. The Apprenti model is designed to provide a proven, reliable pipeline for underrepresented groups such as minorities, women and veterans to gain training, certification and placement within the talent-hungry tech industry.
“I am really proud of SRP’s innovation in work force solutions. We are the first to pilot the Apprenti program in Arizona and we were one of the first to sign on with the Precisionists, which creates jobs for individuals with disabilities,” said Drews. “SRP is rethinking the way it develops and trains employees. SRP has exceptional apprenticeships for 11 crafts and trades, and now we are pioneering into professional apprenticeships. I hope we can be a model for other organizations.”
June and his Apprenti classmates will remain paid SRP employees as they undergo three months of intense classroom instruction and a year of on-the-job training at an SRP facility in the Valley. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, they will start their new tech careers with SRP. Being selected into the program required a rigorous process that involved aptitude testing, critical thinking skills and rounds of interviews. For June, being an IT apprentice has provided both a new career path and a boost in confidence.
“Moving my entire life down here to a hot setting, and an apartment with a crowded neighborhood that I’m not used to, is different,” said June. “But I’ve always been one to try to achieve and climb up the ladder. If the plant wasn’t closing down, I would be really striving to run the control room, but things didn’t go that way, so I just found a different ladder to climb. This was my lifeline, and an amazing opportunity.”
All apprentices who complete the program will be granted positions in IT. SRP continues to fulfill its commitments to NGS employees by offering positions to every employee who chooses to remain with the company.
SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers. SRP is also the metropolitan area’s largest supplier of water, delivering about 800,000 acre-feet annually to municipal, urban and agricultural water users.