Consumers Energy has benefited greatly from the funding received from this grant over the past four years. These additional training dollars have allowed us to drastically increase both the quantity and quality of the training we provide. As a result of these awards, we have trained over 1,600 employees in 24 different job roles.
We provide natural gas to much of lower peninsula Michigan and have thousands of miles of aging gas pipe under the ground. In order to stay current with the environmental standards set before us, we need a very large, qualified workforce to go out and expose and replace this pipeline. Over the past three years, CE has hired nearly 170 gas line laborers, and thanks to modern technolgies and training tools, we have reduced the speed-to-proficiency of these trainees by a full week of classroom time. This allows the workers to get out on the job in a much more timely fashion.
On the gas service side of the company, in 2019, we were able to use some of the Going Pro funds to build out a virtual reality gas leak detector module. Employees are able to strap on the VR goggles and experience a “real” gas leak situation and how to solve the problem, from their seats in their classroom.
In addition, the training funds we receive have helped us to maintain a steady flow of electic linework apprentices into our talent pool. Each year, for the past three years, we have brought on a minimum of 48 new apprentices, bringing the total to just over 150 new employees in this role. This is critical to meet the demand we have in this area caused by an aging workforce and an increase in customer usage. We partner with several community colleges to offer pre-apprenticeship training, and the retention rate of these employees holds steady at roughly 98%.
Consumers Energy prides itself on our robust internal training practices. In today’s competitive market, we continue to offer the majority of our training, specifically within the skilled trades, within our own facilities. This is very unique. Many employees report that some of the best training they’ve ever received is offered right within this company. We have been able to maintain this unique experience, thanks to the training dollars we receive from the Going Pro training fund.