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NYPA launches expanded P-TECH program to help students from disadvantaged communities develop clean energy workforce skills


Mon, Jul 10th 2023 04:15 pm

Summer internships to help create a more diverse candidate pool for growing clean energy industry 

The New York Power Authority (NYPA), in partnership with Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), launched its third annual internship program designed to increase the number of students from disadvantaged communities pursuing studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A press release stated, “The innovative educational model focuses on college attainment and career readiness and offers students in disadvantaged areas of New York state the opportunity to develop skills and competencies that will translate directly to competitive careers. Forty-one students will participate in the Power Authority’s paid internship program – increased from 28 last year – and be matched with mentors and assigned to various energy-related projects.

NYPA Acting President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “The New York Power Authority is committed to inspiring more young people from diverse backgrounds to enter into and succeed in clean energy careers. By allowing access to our facilities, matching students up with staff mentors and giving them a role in a specific clean energy project, these young scholars will get real workplace experience and cultivate many of the specific skills needed for jobs in the clean energy economy.” 

The press release said, “The Power Authority offers six-week paid internships to dozens of P-TECH scholars from disadvantaged communities near NYPA generation and transmission assets. Interns spend most of their time working alongside their peers and NYPA employees contributing directly to real projects that further New York state’s clean energy goals. In addition to the hands-on, technical projects, interns receive one-to-one mentorship, a full day each week devoted to financial literacy, introductions to NYPA staff across different departments, and professionalism and ‘soft skills’ learning, led by Follow Us To Success, a national firm with an emphasis on helping underserved student populations from urban and rural backgrounds to close the post-secondary achievement gap.”

P-TECH is partnering with the Power Authority and local high schools and community colleges to educate students and ensure they have the skills required to enter the workforce after graduation. Eligible participants include high school students and those in community colleges targeting two-year associate degrees in a STEM field.

“Workforce development programs serve as a pipeline to break down traditional barriers to entry into the utility industry and promote a more diverse candidate pool for the growing needs of the field,” said NYPA Vice President of Environmental Justice Kaela Mainsah. “Students participating in this workforce development program will be well-equipped to become industry leaders as New York continues to transition to a growing clean energy economy.”

Under the annual internship program, participating students have completed a variety of significant projects, including NYPA customer energy audits, analysis of vegetation management along existing Power Authority transmission lines, and coordination with the City of Albany on the deployment of smart sensors in LED streetlights.

In Western New York, Central New York, the Capital Region and Southeastern New York, students will work on projects with one-on-one mentoring and weekly skill development sessions.

Locally, students from Be Solar P-TECH and Erie Community College (SUNY) will work alongside engineers from a local electrical engineering and construction firm based out of downtown Buffalo and support the Buffalo Maritime Center in its effort to reconstruct the Seneca Chief, a former boat that once sailed from Lake Erie to New York Harbor through the New York State Canal System.

Students from the Niagara Falls High School and Niagara County Community College will perform an assessment of ladders at the Niagara Power Project and implement necessary repairs or upgrades needed to restore them to a structurally safe condition that meets updated state safety requirements. 

NYPA’s environmental justice team also facilitates monthly career academies for participating students highlighting professional workplace skills. Since 2021, EJ career academies have reached 398 students in 33 workshops. The workshops combine STEM learning activities surrounding renewable energy with internal subject matter expert speakers and college and career readiness concepts such as college affordability and financial literacy.

"As New York continues to lean into renewable energy to power the state, P-TECH programs are expanding to provide hands-on internships for students to explore jobs in the emerging clean energy utility sector,” SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. said. “Across SUNY, campuses are participating in this work by pairing these internships with an education in clean and renewable energy to ensure students who enter our classrooms are well-equipped for their future careers. I appreciate NYPA expanding this particular initiative, which focuses specifically on training more students from the disadvantaged communities that suffer the most from both environmental pollution and unemployment. It is a great opportunity for students and our state, and for that we are proud to offer our support."

“We are so appreciative of this invaluable internship opportunity provided by NYPA to our P-TECH students,” said Work-Based Learning Coordinator for Buffalo Public Schools Erin Selig. “Students are able to engage in the field working directly with engineers on authentic tasks such as energy audits for local businesses. This experience increases their technical skills as well as enhances vital 21st century skills they will need to succeed as they continue on to college and careers.”

“This is a very exciting opportunity for the engineering science students at Niagara County Community College to experience an internship early in their education. They'll have a chance to work with, and be mentored by, practicing engineers,” said Dr. Demetrius Sarigiannis, assistant professor of engineering science at NCCC. “We expect them to learn the importance of teamwork and communication skills in a professional environment and to see how some of the theory they learn in class applies to the profession. Opportunities like this tend to motivate students when they return to school, giving them a clear direction after they graduate."

“Energy Tech is delighted to partner with New York Power Authority this summer on student internships,” said Energy Tech High School Principal Hope Barter. “The internship experiences that NYPA has provided to our community have equipped students with real world workplace skills and understanding, and have been formative in students' college and career planning. This spring, there was tremendous excitement among students and families during the application process, and we are looking forward to hearing about the many ways that our student participants will learn and grow through their placements and NYPA mentorship. We are deeply appreciative of the opportunities that NYPA continues to provide that enrich our students' studies and prepare them for their career pursuits.”

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