BC Case Study

Natural Gas Boot Camp Success Story

Increased Veteran Recruiting

Press release 2013

A training program that prepares workers—mainly military veterans—for jobs in the utility industry will launch this fall in Michigan, including a natural gas boot camp developed in partnership with the Midwest Energy Association, as well as the theory that military veterans can easily transition to careers in energy.

“What we’re trying to do is vet the natural gas boot camp model and provide military veterans with some training to see how well they learn and adapt, to give them a leg up transitioning into the utility industry,” said Ray Kelly, Director of Safety and Technical Training at DTE Energy. DTE Energy, along with Consumers Energy, will launch the training program October 1 in anticipation of hiring successful graduates early next year.

“We are not necessarily looking for an overlap in skills, but an overlap in competencies,” he said. “We want to see if they can learn what they need in a short period of time and hopefully become great employees. I also think it’s an awesome social responsibility on our part, to help veterans find jobs.”

Michele Forcier, senior employee development consultant for Consumers Energy, said her company joined the pilot program because it fit with the company’s hiring needs. “What we hope to see are some candidates who have been exposed to the natural gas side of the business, who come in with some work credentials,” she said. “At the same time, we hope to help the veteran population obtain employment.”

Kelly said two boot camps would run simultaneously. Approximately 25 students, who are mainly unemployed or underemployed veterans, will attend a camp in the northern part of the state. Upon successful completion of the program, they would be considered for a maintenance fitter apprenticeship program at DTE. Another 20 students, also composed largely of veterans, will attend a camp in the southern part of the state. Consumers Energy would consider hiring them as gas utility workers.

Between the two utilities, Kelly said, they hope to hire more than 50 percent of the program’s graduates. Those that aren’t hired directly by utilities will have the skills to seek similar positions at other companies.

The boot camp portion of the program runs for about six weeks and features instructor-guided lessons and hands-on practice. The training incorporates CEWD’s four-week Energy Industry Fundamentals certificate program, blending instructor-led and web-based material, Kelly said. Both companies are currently determining which parts of the boot camp curriculum best fit their needs.

Students are being recruited through partnerships with the Veterans Administration and Michigan Works!, a workforce development association. Other partners in the program include the Midwest Energy Association (MEA), Schoolcraft Community College, and Alpena Community College.

“This pilot is part of a larger effort promoted by the Michigan Utility Workforce Development Consortium,” said Rick W. Legleitner, Manager, Employee Development and Skilling at Consumers Energy. “The purpose of the consortium, in concert with Michigan community colleges, MiWorks! agencies, and the Michigan Workforce Development Agency, is the creation of a diverse pool of competent employees for the Michigan utility industry. This pilot has the potential to be an important component in this effort.”

Michele Kirkland, Vice President, Energy Operations at Consumers Energy, said “This is a key workforce preparation and development opportunity and fits our vision of having a diverse pool of qualified students that can move from school to work.”