Energy Pathways is a four-week paid summer immersion opportunity developed by Spokane-area utility company Avista to introduce incoming high school juniors and seniors to the energy industry.
For Katelyn Bartel, now a student at Eastern Washington University, the internship was life changing.
“This really opened my eyes into what I could be doing with my life. It makes me more motivated when I go to school because I know that there’s something that I’m working towards. It gives me more of a goal.”
Through Avista’s training opportunities like Energy Pathways, high school and undergraduate students gain access to valuable professional and technical skills, while the company creates a skilled and diverse pool of employees.
Avista developed Energy Pathways when the company was invited to participate in a discussion about Career Connect Washington, which aims to create more hands-on learning opportunities for Washington students. The Avista team thought about their backgrounds and what they wish they had known about the energy industry as students. They designed a full-time opportunity for high school students to learn about what a utility company does, explore the operations and internal workings, and shadow jobs in different trades, engineering positions, or support careers.
“Some of the benefits that we receive – someone that’s familiar with the industry and already knows that this is a fit that they’ve discovered,” said Jeremy Gall, Avista’s director of safety and craft training. “Another benefit that we get as a company is expanding our pool of candidates and bringing more diversity in that pool of candidacy.”
For other companies looking to start similar programs, Avista advises working with educational partners at local schools, such as career counselors and CTE directors, to develop activities.
The program is rewarding for company employees, Gall said, and some students who were unsure of their path after high school end up discovering new career pathways and possibilities through the program.
Students who participate in the Energy Pathways program learn a variety of skills, from employability basics like teamwork and punctuality, to how to perform well in an interview process, to hands-on technical applications. Students also receive career and technical education (CTE) credit through their high school, an award of completion, and a deeper understanding of the pathways they could take to a career in energy.
Guiseppe Masciovecchio is a senior at Deer Park High School in Deer Park. He said that Energy Pathways helped him experience a job he could turn into his career.
“They really show you what you need to do to get the job,” said Masciovecchio, who intends to pursue an electrical license at Spokane Community College, followed by an apprenticeship on his way to becoming a foreman.
Energy Pathways is also designed as a doorway into Avista’s other paid learning opportunities for college students pursuing apprenticeships and engineering degrees.
Bartel used her experience in Energy Pathways to move into Avista’s Student Engineering Development Program.
“I’m going to graduate in a year, and then I want to keep working at Avista.”