Now in its second year of offering a rapid path to career-track energy jobs, the Power and Trades Pathways Program at Henry Ford College in Dearborn has produced its first graduates and admissions are growing.

The Power and Trades Pathways program prepares students for high-demand skilled trades jobs in the energy, construction and electrical trades. Program courses are offered in six career pathways and most can be completed in one year, qualifying graduates for apprenticeships with good pay and benefits. The program is available to anyone with a high school degree who is at least 17 years old.

Launched by DTE Energy and Henry Ford College in 2017, 10 students from the initial enrollment of 21 have earned program completion certificates and 60 more are now enrolled in the program. The DTE Energy Foundation provided a $600,000 grant to start the program and bolster the college’s skilled trades programs. DTE Energy donated substation operations equipment such as service meters, resistors, bushings, insulators, and relays for student learning labs and two DTE retirees are among the program instructors.

“We’re very pleased with the program and encouraged with the progress,” said Jerry Norcia, president and chief operating officer of DTE Energy. “DTE is committed to being a force for growth in energy trades education and employment. This program at Henry Ford will ultimately help rebuild metro Detroit’s middle class.”

A 2018 graduate of the Cody-Detroit Institute of Technology, Makaela Culberson, just completed a paid summer skilled trades internship at DTE, which prompted her to enroll in the Power and Trades Pathway program.

“It’s a crazy awesome opportunity,” said Culberson. “I jumped on it because I’ll get the training I need to get my foot in the door. I plan to start my career by attaining an apprenticeship in the energy field and continuing toward a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.”

Students spend their first two semesters learning energy industry basics toward earning a core level-certification, then experience one semester in learning labs, which qualifies them for entry-level jobs in the energy industry. Program instructors are industry subject matter experts and recent industry retirees who understand the field from a hands-on point of view.

Dennis Bolden attended the Cody Academy of Public Leadership in Detroit, enrolled in the Henry Ford program in August 2017, graduated with a certificate in industrial technology and is now working at DTE as an apprentice.

“I was in 11th grade at Cody and landed a DTE summer internship where I worked at an electric substation,” said Bolden. “After my senior year, I did another DTE internship in natural gas operations. I heard about the Henry Ford program where I learned exactly what I would be doing in the field as a professional. The pay at DTE is good, the benefits are great and I work all around the Detroit area. This is something I want to do for a living.”

Bolden, a Detroit resident, detects and marks underground gas lines for maintenance and upgrade work.

“Energy industry apprenticeships run between two to five years at DTE,” explained Diane Antishin, vice president of Human Resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer at DTE. “Apprentices are union members and to reach the journeyman level, they have to advance through progressive levels of training, classroom hours and hands-on experience with written and hands-on testing. The Power and Trades Pathways Program helps to ensure that apprentice candidates are ready for the additional rigors of their training – whether here at DTE Energy, in the energy industry broadly, or in related industries such as construction and manufacturing.”

According to the State of Michigan Career Outlook, significant retirements in the skilled trades and industry expansion are expected to create many new job openings. Construction trades workers are among the high demand occupations forecast through 2026 with more than 1,400 annual openings and wages ranging from $24 to $38 per hour. Over 400 annual openings are forecast for electrical power-line installers and repairers at $29 to $45 per hour.

“Our intent was to launch the program, produce graduates, get traction, and recruit new students,” said Rebecca Michalski, DTE Energy Foundation Grant Project Manager at Henry Ford College. “We’re on track with all that and incorporating more wrap-around support for students in the program like counseling, tutoring and resume and interview workshops to ensure students complete the program and are prepared to enter the workforce when they finish.”

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