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In Pennsylvania, where the booming natural gas industry is already creating thousands of energy jobs, there's also a need for skilled workers to replace departing utility employees, and vets are well-placed to do that, said Robert Powelson, chairman of the state's Public Utility Commission.
The Pennsylvania PUC is "cheerleading" for the veterans jobs program, and for another jobs initiative for returning troops announced by Governor Tom Corbett in his recent budget speech, Powelson said. The program is run by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, of which EEI is a partner.
"One of the growth areas of our economy is the energy sector," said Powelson, in an interview with AOL Energy. "The demand to replace the infrastructure isn't going away."
There's no subsidy or other financial incentive for utilities to participate in the program, Powelson said, but a sense of meeting the needs of servicemen and women who have served their country but often have a high rate of unemployment in making the transition to civilian life.
"This program is about how to help these individuals that have served their country with distinction," he said.
Among the needs that can be filled by the incoming workers are smart grid enhancements like meter installations, or upgrades to electrical sub-stations. "Many of them have used those skill sets abroad," he said.
For utilities looking to fill open positions, the vets represent a great opportunity, Powelson said.
"If I was a human-resources manager, what would keep me up at night is how I'm going to fill those positions," he said. With the skills possessed by many returning vets, they are "almost a turnkey" for the energy industry.
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