URGENT effort eyes women for larger utility roles

Utility players (from left): PSEG Long Island Vice President David Lyons, Nassau Community College President W. Hubert Keen, New York American Water President Brian Bruce and Rosalie Drago of the Workforce Development Institute, with URGENT news.

Mixing gender equity, evolving workforce needs and a dash of economic-development sauce, the Workforce Development Institute and several big-name utilities are partnering with Nassau Community College to provide free career training for women.

The idea, according to the sponsors of the Utility Readiness for Gaining Employment for Non-Traditionals: Women program, is to prepare women for larger roles in the utilities industries. The partners – including representatives of PSEG Long Island, National Grid and New York American Water, the state’s subsidiary of the New Jersey-based American Water Works Co. – announced the new effort Monday in Garden City.

Tortured acronyms aside, URGENT aims high: three months of free Nassau Community College workshops – thanks primarily to a WDI training grant – with input directly from industry giants designed to prepare women for higher-paying jobs with electric, gas and water utilities.

Experience: Bolstering the regional workforce is always an NCC priority, according to Keen.

Experience: Bolstering the regional workforce is always an NCC priority, according to Keen.

Scheduled to run Feb. 1 to March 28, 2017, the program is slated to include 130 hours of classroom instruction in addition to industry field trips, “employability workshops” and direct access to recruiters at the participating utilities.

Successful completion results in industry-recognized Energy Industry Fundamentals and Workplace Safety and Healthy (OSHA 10) certifications from the Center for Energy Workforce Development, a national, nonprofit consortium of energy utilities. The certificates qualify workers for positions such as electrical technician and station operator, among others.

The inaugural class will be limited to 20 students, officials said, and the application process is underway.

Rosalie Drago, the WDI’s Huntington-based regional director, said the institute decided to issue an undisclosed training grant to fund URGENT because the program provides clear advantages for both employees and employers, a workforce-development win-win.

“What is most important in this pre-employment training is that it was developed in a collaboration between local industry, education and workforce organizations,” Drago told Innovate LI. “That means the participants are being taught skills that regional employers actually need.

“Those who complete the training will be more employable, with industry-recognized certifications,” she added. “And they’ll have access to interviews at Long Island’s top utility employers.”

The program is also a natural fit for Nassau Community, according to college President W. Hubert Keen, who noted Monday that responding to regional workforce needs has always been a school staple.

“Nassau Community College offers a host of workforce-certificate programs that not only provide critical marketable skills to our students, but also the workers necessary to grow our local industries,” Keen said in a statement.

The college, as evidenced by the progressive program, is also cognizant of how the workplace is evolving, the president noted.

“Partnering with three major utilities to train women for careers in the traditionally male industry is another way that Nassau Community College provides the training and skills our students need to compete in an ever-changing workplace,” Keen said.

The utilities, meanwhile, are understandably thrilled to join in. New York American Water President Brian Bruce referenced an “important opportunity” to “increase the role of women in the science and engineering professions,” while National Grid New York President Ken Daly – the “proud father of two young daughters” – said URGENT would “empower the next generation of workers by educating women about the diverse careers that our exciting industry offers, and encouraging them to apply for nontraditional field roles.”

Program sponsors also include the Hempstead/Long Beach Workforce Development Board and the Town of Hempstead Department of Occupational Resources, which is hosting orientation sessions for the URGENT program beginning Nov. 29 at the HempsteadWorks Career Center.

While the pilot class will be limited to 20 participants, future versions are expected to include more open slots. More information, including application details, is available here.

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