PG&E Summer Fellowship Program Wraps Up!

PG&E and NEED just wrapped up a mostly virtual Summer Fellowship program for twenty high school juniors and seniors from throughout the Pacific Gas and Electric Company service area, California’s largest utility company.

What’s a Fellowship?
PG&E offers a rich variety of college and career preparation programming, including scholarships and internship and tuition support.  By connecting these with our high school CTE programs, we hope to build a pipeline from K-12 through college for students throughout Northern and Central California. Students were selected based on their level of interest in establishing a long-term association with NEED and with the sponsor, PG&E, and the “Fellowship” moniker recognizes that interest.

Meeting virtually, the new normal!
The program is modeled on an earlier Virtual Internship Programs that NEED developed for the sponsor and ran during the Covid years. While Covid seems to be becoming a thing of the past, virtual meetings are part of the new world of work!   The benefits of Zoom or Teams meetings includes bringing experts from one part of the state to speak to students hundreds of miles away and permitting students to participate even if they live in remote parts of the state.   The challenges of meeting virtually are also very much part of our modern world, so we feel our students benefit from meeting this way at least part of the time.

Expert mentors make this program a win-win!
PG&E employee volunteers are the secret to success, they serve multiple roles:  One-to-one Mentors provide individual support to students with weekly phone calls or zoom meetings; Project Mentors give teams feedback while they develop project-based learning proposals; and Career Pathway Mentors provide one-hour interactive presentations about their role in a safe and clean energy industry and share their personal career journey and tips for success.
More than 30 volunteer mentors were involved this summer, representing a wide range of careers. Catalina Reyes shared her exciting role as a Senior Aquatic Wildlife Biologist. Alisen Taxera is a Senior Executive Recruiter and explained how she found her way to a successful career in the energy sector.

Senior Aquatic Wildlife Biologist Catalina Reyes gives students a peek at her important work

Field trips are the best!

Most of the sponsors’ mentors are still working from home but PG&E training centers are in full swing, so we didn’t bat an eye when the company’s Instructional Designer, Shaheed Rasheen offered to have our high school students visit Livermore Training Center, 35-acre campus 45 miles east of San Francisco.  This state-of-the-art facility is equipped to train employees to work on overhead and underground power distribution systems. A separate are focuses on electric substation operations and maintenance.  University Programs manager Tom Manriquez brought four college level interns to meet our high school students, who heard all about the support they’ve received from PG&E in the form of scholarships and internships.

Capstone Resiliency Projects and NEED Hands-on STEM activities keep students engaged

Students enjoyed hands-on investigations using materials sent to them in advance. NEED Associate, Caryn Turrel, facilitated three exciting projects:  Energy House explores ways to insulate a model house students build. In a second session students built and tested our Science of Electricity generator.  A third project was the Greenhouse in a Bottle activity from our Climate Science selection of activities.

The “Resilience Hub Challenge” was our Fellowship program Capstone Project. Five teams of four students identified community populations as extraordinary risk of climate-related threats like wildfires, water shortages, and extreme heat events.  Based on an actual PG&E competitive grant program, students worked with a hypothetical $100,000 budget to design and implement their proposals and then presented their slideshows and Public Service Announcement videos to a panel of three judges, including Chris Benjamin, PG&E Director of Sustainability.

The Summer Fellowship is just the beginning!

PG&E offers a rich variety of college and career preparation programming, including scholarships and internship and tuition support.  By connecting these to our high school CTE programs, we are building an intentional pipeline for students who elect to remain connected.  The 20 students in this program will be invited to future meetings and field trip experiences and are staying connected with their mentors through a dedicated LinkedIn group and with the support of PG&E managers of University Programs, PowerPathway, and Employee Resource Groups.  Future activities with this group of students may include resume reviews, mock interviews, and field trips to the PG&E Advanced Technologies Center, wind and hydropower generation sites, and other company laboratories and offices.
When PG&E college scholarships are available, Fellowship and Internship program students will be the first to know.

The PG&E pathway through career workforce development programs: Mahek Walia, shown here with Apprentice Training Supervisor Terry Hogg during our field trip, is now a college senior in the PG&E Engineer Rotation Development Program.
In the summer of 2017, Mahek was in our high school internship program!

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 Internship and Fellowship Program sessions are under development now and will be announced as the dates and details are determined.