The Home Front Formation: Military Spirit, Civilian Service

June 20, 2016

The transition from military to civilian life is not always easy. Adapting to a new way of life can be challenging. One of the most difficult tasks for a newly-separated veteran is how to translate the work they did in the military into the civilian workforce. Swords to Plowshares is helping some veterans ease this transition by partnering with PG&E for their PowerPathway program.

Since this partnership’s inception in 2009, Swords and PG&E have worked together to successfully train, support, and employ over 50 veterans in the gas and utilities field. “Over the years, Swords to Plowshares has been a great partner with our PowerPathway program for careers at PG&E and the utility industry,” said Justin Real, Senior Program Manager of PG&E Talent Management & Inclusion. “Among our many diversity goals is training and hiring more veterans. Swords to Plowshares has a proven track record of providing support services and helping our veterans re-enter the workforce.”

The second all-veteran PowerPathway class graduated from Gas Pipeline Inspector training on May 20th, 2016. This year’s session was the third year in a row that Swords to Plowshares has partnered with PG&E for this particular cohort, and the second consecutive year they have brought Gas Pipeline Inspector training to 19 veterans from the Bay Area. Using an Employer Driven Curriculum (EDC), this all-veteran training cohort followed a condensed professional curriculum that teaches and trains veterans for highly-skilled jobs in the career-oriented utility industry.

Swords to Plowshares’ Director of Employment and Training, Erica Trejo, is excited about this partnership because PG&E understands the needs of veterans and provides them with the opportunity to gain invaluable skills in the utility industry, which sets them up for lifelong careers. “This partnership provides veterans with a life-changing opportunity. Our last cohort resulted in 100 percent placement in not just jobs, but careers that provide competitive wages for the Bay Area,” said Trejo. “We are proud of our veterans’ dedication throughout the training and of PG&E’s commitment to our veterans.”

Matt Lopez is one of 19 veterans in this year’s training cohort. After Matt was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps after serving eight years as a diesel mechanic, he decided to pursue a career in the logistics field. He began training at the Port of Oakland as a ship-loading manager, but realized that without a bachelor’s degree he would not be able to move into a management position. Matt found out about the PowerPathway program through friends employed at PG&E. It was easy to see how his military skill set would be a great fit for the work offered by the utility company. There were also clearly defined opportunities for professional growth.

Matt thrived during his training, describing it as “incredibly informative with excellent and challenging training.” He added, “It’s also a plus that I get to work with fellow veterans that have the same things in common. We have been linked up directly with PG&E inspectors and are shadowing them every day.” Matt also appreciates what Swords to Plowshares has been able to add to the cohort. “Swords was able to take the feedback from the prior course and make real changes that have helped ease the stresses off our shoulders, allowing us to focus and mentally get through the courses.”

Matt and his fellow 18 veterans are now two weeks in to their new employment, making over $50.00 an hour as subcontractors of PG&E. The end goal is to be hired as a full-time employees by PG&E, which would mean financial stability, competitive wages, room for growth, and even a way to give back to his community.

Employer Driven Curriculums can help an employer directly meet the needs of a business through a high-skilled workforce, all while offering well-paid careers for veterans who are using the skills they acquired in the military. The PG&E PowerPathway program is a great example of an EDC program that is mutually beneficial to both the employer and the veteran, making it a self-evident success for both groups.

If you are an employer interested in establishing an Employer Driven Curriculum to train and hire veterans for your work force, please reach out to Employment and Training at employment@stp-sf.org to learn more.