EMCC students preferred for apprenticeships at Palo Verde

AVONDALE, Arizona—May 9, 2014— During a time of high attrition in the energy industry workforce, Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) and Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS) are implementing procedures to help college students obtain paid internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

In partnership with Palo Verde, EMCC’s Power Plant Technology (PPT) program, part of the Get Into Energy initiative launched in 2012, recently adopted a system to allow students to skip the initial screening process when applying for PVGNS maintenance internship and apprenticeship opportunities. This provides PPT participants an advantage over other applicants bidding for the approximate 15 positions offered each year in both the intern and apprentice roles.

Students enrolled in the PPT program are able to jump straight into the pre-employment test, bypassing the resume screening, after successfully completing two prerequisite courses and three credentials in their first semester of the program. The PPT program offers an associate degree pathway, which takes roughly two and a half years to complete in an applied learning environment.

The three industry-recognized credentials are embedded in the two program pre-requisite courses: the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), the Kuder Energy Industry Fundamentals Certificate, and the Skills USA Employability Skills Certificate. These credentials test students in areas such as basic academic skills, foundations of the energy industry, and professional and interpersonal skills, ultimately preparing students for employment.

"Completing the credentials shows commitment to the program and a career in energy,” said Dan Spiak, Talent Acquisition Leader, Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. “We are looking for candidates that are workforce ready and show a high aptitude for passing the test. We are confident that our partnership with EMCC will provide a sustainable pipeline of workers for the future." 

The interns and apprentices hired by Palo Verde rotate through various maintenance positions, learning the craft from experienced journeymen, many of which have worked in the industry for 30 or more years. The interns are offered a one-year position in which they attend school twice per week and work three ten-hour shifts at the plant. PVNGS apprentices go through a four-year Registered Apprenticeship program, which requires completion of an associate degree. Participants of both programs are paid for on-the-job work and receive full tuition assistance from Palo Verde while enrolled in the PPT courses.

The PPT faculty are also developing a boot camp designed to simulate the pre-employment testing environment to improve student success rates. According to Spiak, only 44 percent of individuals at Palo Verde who take the Maintenance Selection System (MASS) test, an industry vetted pre-employment exam, successfully pass. A passing score on the MASS test is required for employment as a maintenance intern or apprentice.

The intent of the boot camp is to improve pass rates by EMCC students, increasing their chances of employment. Students will have the opportunity to take the camp after completing their first semester in the program and passing the program math requirements.

EMCC currently has 296 students in the PPT program pipeline. Last year, 15 of the 31 maintenance interns and apprentices hired at Palo Verde were current or former students in EMCC’s PPT program. These positions are posted once per year, and are set to open for application again this summer. Entry courses required for preferential application are now open for registration for summer and fall terms at the EMCC campus in Avondale.

On Thursday, May 15, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., EMCC will be hosting its biannual Energy Institute Open House at the Palo Verde Energy Education Center, located at 600 North Airport Road in Buckeye, Arizona. The event will highlight the benefits of a career in energy and introduce the public to the PPT degree pathway at EMCC while showcasing the industry partnerships and resources available to students.

Attendees will be able to browse the hands-on facility, meet EMCC faculty and current students, interact with energy employers, and learn about industry career opportunities. The event is free and open to the public, and is provided as an informational session. RSVP is required at energy@estrellamountain.edu, or by contacting the EMCC Energy Institute, 623-935-8415.

EMCC is the lead college of the Arizona Sun Corridor- Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC), comprised of five community colleges around the state which received a grant from the Department of Labor (DOL) to build and improve energy-related degree programs. The colleges partner with all major energy providers and mining companies in the state, offering associate degree pathways for entry into skilled, high-paying positions. Other colleges involved in the initiative include; Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Northland Pioneer College in Holbrook, Pima Community College in Tucson and Yavapai College in Prescott. More information on any of the five ASC-GIEC colleges can be found at az.getintoenergy.com.

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Estrella Mountain Community College is one of the 11 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. EMCC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates and short-term job training to more than 14,000 students annually. The flagship campus is located on Thomas and Dysart roads in Avondale and is home to the SouthWest Skill Center. Classes are also offered online and at EMCC’s Buckeye Educational Center, located in downtown Buckeye, Ariz.