Training focused on increasing representation of people of color, women and other groups in Illinois’ clean energy workforce produced in 2020 the highest number of graduates and job placements since the programs began in 2017. The annual report on training programs funded by the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was submitted by ComEd today to the Illinois Commerce Commission and showed 94 percent of trainees, or 684, graduated and secured employment, up from 72 percent, or 433, in 2019.
“Trainers and participants demonstrated remarkable dedication to stay on course and achieve their goals last year despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez. “Social service agencies, industry and community groups are opening doors to new clean energy jobs for members of underrepresented groups. The program has established high standards and is delivering on its promises.”
The training programs are scheduled to run through 2029 and are supported through three successive $10 million funding periods. The first installment was made in 2017, and future payments are scheduled to be made in 2021 and 2025.
Enacted in 2016, FEJA allows ComEd to connect with partner social service agencies, or grantees, who conduct the training. Trainees graduated from one of three programs: the Solar Pipeline, the Craft Apprenticeship led by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Renewable Energy Fund, or the Multicultural Job Training program. The 2020 graduates accepted a broad range of positions and promotions, including solar panel installers and technicians, energy brokers, site surveyors and training instructors.
The 728 participants in 2020 included 459 people of color and 129 women; 359 live in environmental justice communities where residents are exposed to potential environmental and health risks; 64 trainees were formerly involved with the justice system and nine are foster alumni.
The Solar Pipeline program had 113 trainees, and 85 percent of those eligible were offered jobs after completing solar bootcamp and lessons in power industry skills, alternative energy, OSHA regulations, financial literacy, math, and career guidance. Training was implemented by Elevate Energy, Illinois Central College, OAI, Inc. and Safer Foundation.
All 427 trainees in the IBEW program graduated and 99 percent secured employment; 135 reside in environmental justice communities, and 42 percent are people of color. IBEW training includes electric industry trades and skills, introduction to solar and “train-the-trainer” programs delivered by IBEW locals at high schools across Illinois. In fall of 2020, IBEW launched two new programs with Daley College and Triton College; it plans to replicate the Renewable Energy Technology program at Triton College and other Illinois community colleges.
There were 188 participants in the Multicultural program in 2020, up from 130 in 2019. Eighty-two percent graduated and 78 percent were offered jobs. The community-based training programs were implemented by Chicago Urban League, National Latino Education Institute (NLEI), ASPIRA of Illinois and Austin Peoples Action Center. The program is also supported by multicultural organizations that serve contractors, including Chatham Business Association and Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA).
The FEJA training programs overcame numerous challenges stemming from the pandemic. In mid-March, Illinois’ shelter-in-place orders required FEJA grantees to temporarily close their physical locations, requiring structural changes and additional services for participants. NLEI partnered with Comcast to provide computers and internet access, and HACIA implemented computer training.
Grantees who receive funds and implement the job training programs partner with the Safer Foundation, Salvation Army, U.S. Probations and Parole, the Illinois Department of Human Services, aldermanic offices throughout Chicago and many social service organizations for recruitment of and outreach to potential participants.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 100 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.