PECO offers a chance at employment to some residents in underserved Philly neighborhoods

PECO truck in the foreground, PECO worker in the background

PECO truck in the foreground, PECO worker in the background (Emma Lee/WHYY)

PECO Energy has chosen 23 residents from underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods to participate in its pre-apprenticeship program, which the utility bills as a way to provide communities it serves with a path to family-sustaining jobs.

The 13-week rotational program, which began on Monday, will give the group of 18 men and five women an opportunity to review the jobs available at the utility, to learn safety, electric and gas basics, technical maintenance, and other skills.

At the end of the program, participants will be able to take tests required for entry-level jobs at the company, including the construction and skilled trades exam and the commercial driver’s license test.

The Helper Pool Pre-Apprenticeship Program is designed to remove barriers to workforce entry, said Keith Henderson, manager of technical operations for PECO’s workforce development team.

“We had over 750 applications that we processed and we are only hiring 20 positions,” said Henderson during Monday’s kickoff at PECO headquarters in Philadelphia. “We know this is a great opportunity for folks in the community to create not just a job, but a career for them to create generational wealth.”

Henderson said the pool of pre-apprentices came from PECO’s community partners, as well as previous job candidates who needed to boost their skills.

PECO offers people from the communities they serve a chance at six-figure job through special program. (Tom MacDonald/ WHYY)

The utility created the program, said Henderson, because many people in the communities that PECO serves don’t know about the job opportunities available for people with just a high school diploma. He spoke specifically about a program targeted at at-risk young people.

“I asked a few people in our PECO Explorers program what a lineman was, and immediately they thought I was talking about football. We knew we had to create some outreach so they knew what these positions are,” said Henderson.

Sabrina Brooks, senior manager of workforce development at PECO, said this is just another way the utility connects with the community.

“These are entry-level positions for those who don’t have utility experience, but are interested in learning more about the energy industry and PECO,” she said.

Brooks said the positions start at $20 an hour, but earning potential is much higher.

“You have an opportunity to earn over six-figures,” she said. “You have an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and really you have an opportunity to design the career you are interested in.”

One of the 23 people in the program is Hector Lopez, a resident of North Philadelphia. He was a former summer intern at PECO, and went to Jules E. Mastbaum High School, which offers technical education. Eventually, he hopes to land a position making the $100,000 annual salaries that some of PECO’s line workers and other specialty professions make.

Lopez said he’s excited about the opportunity.

“I was never a college person. College was never for me,” he said. “This is a dream-changer. You can only go further with success from this company.”

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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