PG&E and NEED just wrapped up the first-ever comprehensive paid “Virtual Internship Program”, with 15 students representing five high schools in four communities. Virtual Interns are Juniors or Seniors and represent Skyline High School and Oakland High School in Oakland, Irvington High School in Fremont, Edison High School in Fresno, and the Merlo Institute of Environmental Education in Stockton.
PG&E created the first high school paid internships in the summer of 2014 for students attending any of the PG&E Energy Academy high school programs. The summer program lasted five summers and served over 500 students in seven cities. This virtual version of the program is a response to COVID but also brings great benefits to the interns and mentors because distance is no longer a barrier to bringing mentors and students together. An Oakland intern can meet and work with a customer care specialist in Fresno, and a student in Stockton can have an engineer in San Francisco as their project mentor. In all, thirty-five PG&E employees served as personal Mentors, Project Mentors, Career and Special Topic presenters, and Project Judges.
The typical two-hour per day after-school program consists of an hour with mentors followed by an hour in a soft skills course offered by Junior Achievement, “Career Success” and “Financial Literacy”, or time working on projects. In all, interns worked over 60 hours much of which was time spent with company volunteer mentors. These hours included more than a dozen Career Pathway presentations, support from one-to-one intern advisors, and several meetings with project coaches.
On one very special Monday, students got to work with NEED’s master trainer Rob Griegoliet who guided them through the hands-on activity called Energy House, in which students use the materials provide in a kit to create an energy efficient model home and then test it’s insulation values. A capstone project was concluded with presentations on February 1. Mixed-school teams of three identified COVID high-risk populations and developed solutions that could qualify for a $100,000 PG&E Better Together Community Resiliency Grant, the winning team members receiving $100 awards, $50 for second place, and $25 for all other participants.
All fifteen interns completed the program and along with a broader sense of career options in the energy sector can claim three PG&E certifications earned through completion of these online courses: Basics of Solar Electric Systems, Electric Vehicles, What You Need to Know, and Energy Math. Students were able to add this program and the PG&E Certifications and Junior Achievement courses to professional resumes we helped to create, and they are building LinkedIn Profiles and becoming connected with their mentors.
Among more than a dozen special presentations provided by PG&E volunteer speakers and career coaches, one stands out: Ricky Fong is an Electrical Engineering degree candidate at UC Irvine and enjoys working for PG&E in a University Internship program. What makes him special is that his first exposure to career opportunities came from being one of our 2017 Summer Internship Program interns. Ricky represents our goal for all future high school interns, that we remain connected with them beyond high school, providing support through opportunities for scholarships, internships, and memberships in professional organizations, and more.
NEED is honored to be part of this amazing effort and wishes to thank Stephanie Isaacson, PG&E Director of Community Relations/Executive Director, The PG&E Corporation Foundation, and Program Managers Alicia Bert and Kasey Olin for their support and leadership. Future Virtual Internship Program sessions are under development now and will be announced as the dates and details are determined.