Seventeen military veterans from Fresno and Madera counties completed initial training in a pilot program to prepare them for careers with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
At a ceremony and luncheon Tuesday in Fresno, PG&E Corp. CEO Tony Earley, a retired Navy officer, recognized the vets on their completion of the company’s first Power Pathways program aimed at training prospective customer-service representatives in PG&E call centers. Previous Power Pathways training sessions up and down the state have prepared students and veterans for more technical utility work in the field on power lines or gas pipelines.
Earlier sessions prepared students for work with PG&E or other energy utility companies, but with no firm commitment for a job at the end of the training. “The exciting part about this class is that 100 percent are going to become PG&E employees,” Earley said.
Nez Hosseini, head of PG&E’s Fresno veterans resource group and a former Army airborne veteran, said call-center supervisors came up with the idea for a Power Pathways program after seeing the success of the other training sessions over the past few years.
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“Being a veteran myself, it’s my duty to help my fellow veterans,” he said. “They have such great qualities and such a great work ethic that PG&E will benefit and our customers will benefit as well.”
Hosseini said the latest group of veterans began the first round of training in late September. Starting on Monday, they will move into the second stage for seven weeks in a PG&E contact center.
“All 17 vets will be trained up and ready to go, and should hit the floor by Christmas Eve helping our customers.” Once officially on the job, they will be fielding calls on everything from billing to service starts and construction permits, Hosseini said.
Sandra Cisneros, a former U.S. Navy petty officer still active in the reserves, was thrilled to be chosen. “We were told there were 500-plus applicants,” she said. “To come down to 17 and me being one of those, I was very honored.”
Since leaving active-duty service with the Navy, Cisneros said she has relied on pay from continuing Navy reserve training and service before landing the opportunity with PG&E. “Oh, my gosh, it’s been such a blessing,” she said of having a guaranteed job with the company.
Earley said that in addition to a wide range of technical competence from their military training and experience, veterans also bring practical skills. “They know the importance of being on time, they know how to partner with people and the value of teamwork,” he said.
“One of the challenges that we and other technical companies face is finding enough employees with a base of technical skills. … There are no unskilled jobs at PG&E.”
He added that “what Power Pathways does is prepare people so they can be successful in the utility industry.”
Since the program began in the late 1980s, Earley added, about 80 percent of veterans who have graduated from Power Pathways training have landed jobs in the utility industry, whether with PG&E or other companies. He said such training programs will be a key component of PG&E’s commitment to hire at least 1,000 veterans over the next eight years.