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Building the Pipeline

How Consumers Energy Is Shining a Light on the Renewable Energy Workforce of the Future

The world is in a state of transition. We’re shifting away from coal and fossil fuels and moving toward an exciting clean energy future. For many, it’s just a vision. But at Consumers Energy, we’re building it now.

We’re going coal-free by 2025 and are set to achieve net zero methane and carbon emissions by 2030 and 2040. We’re also boosting renewable energy sources and investing heavily in solar energy. We’re planning to add 8,000 megawatts of solar - the most aggressive build out in our history - using a mix of owned and contracted resources. 

No worker left behind 

Our Clean Energy Plan calls for accelerating the closure of one of our remaining coal-fired power plants — the Campbell generating complex near Holland — by 15 years. 

As we have in the past, we plan to support the employees and community affected by the early plant retirement by finding new roles for those who want to stay, helping local leaders pursue new economic futures and fulfilling our environmental responsibilities at the site. 

For proof we’ll keep our promises, look no further than the progress at the seven coal-fired units we retired in 2016. Those units, affectionately nicknamed the “Classic Seven,” were located at the Weadock (Bay City), Cobb (Muskegon) and Whiting (Luna Pier) plants and closing them was the first significant step in our journey away from coal.

Though it wasn’t easy, we’re proud of the deliberate, thoughtful and caring way we safely decommissioned the plants while balancing our commitment to people, the planet and Michigan’s economic prosperity. 

New skills for a cleaner energy future

In 2018, to help fulfill our “no worker left behind” promise, we began a partnership with the Utility Workers Union of America and the Power4America (P4A) trust to develop the Renewables Specialist Apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship program’s goal is designed to develop a skilled workforce in house to support the renewable generation assets as we add clean energy to our portfolio. The program’s first class graduated in February, and the next cohort is set to graduate in July.

The apprentice program takes approximately 2.5 years to complete the classroom and in the field training. The Renewables Specialist Apprentice Program has been accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor, with coordination through the UWUA P4A Team to achieve this accreditation.

Classes in the RS-Apprentice program are taught through a combination of resources including Learning and Development professionals at Consumers Energy and qualified union instructors.

Supporting the next generation of renewable energy workers

We’re also looking ahead to the renewable energy jobs that will be available 5, 10 and even 20 years from now. We want the next generation of STEM students to be just as excited about the clean energy revolution in Michigan as we are! 

The Michigan school system does an excellent job of teaching elementary school students about how energy is produced. As these students transition to high school, we help them explore energy careers, ranging from technology to management to engineering and beyond. One of our favorite ways to get involved is through FIRST in Michigan (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition.

During high school, students can begin their energy career preparation by taking an “energy industry fundamentals” course at one of the many Career and Tech Ed Centers that Consumers Energy partners with around the state or through Michigan Colleges Online. 

Course completion leads to certification from the national Center for Energy Workforce Development that helps jumpstart students’ interest and participation in college-level energy programs.  Students can dual-enroll in college while taking the course or transfer it to one of five Consumers Energy partner colleges for qualified energy workers - specifically lineworkers, technicians and other roles relevant in all forms of renewable energy, including solar, hydroelectric, wind, natural gas, renewable natural gas and battery storage.

Consumers Energy also has two veterans hiring programs, Electric Lines Boot Camp for electric lineworkers and Michigan Gas Boot Camp for natural gas construction workers.

We’re also committed to helping elementary and middle school students explore energy careers early, and to boosting diversity within the utility industry. We offer summer youth programs to get kids excited now about energy. We also tap current employees to meet with students and share their experiences.

Consumers Energy’s clean energy transformation is changing the way we view the future of energy production. Consumers Energy is working hard to lead that journey - and we hope you’ll join us.

For more on our clean energy plan for Michigan, visit ConsumersEnergy.com/change. To learn about career opportunities at Consumers Energy, visit ConsumersEnergy.com/careers.