Published January 28, 2022
We previously wrote about CUB’s support for an Xcel workforce development pilot program. This blog post provides an update on this program, which the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) recently approved.
In May of 2020, the PUC opened a docket (the “Economic Recovery” docket) with the goal of identifying possible utility investments that could help Minnesota recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. CUB was among several organizations that contributed comments in that docket suggesting that the Commission prioritize utility initiatives that specifically target those individuals and communities disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. CUB specifically identified workforce development programs as the type of initiative that we believed would meet the PUC’s goals in opening the Economic Recovery Docket.
After discussions with stakeholders and community organizations, Xcel filed a petition with the PUC seeking approval of a workforce development pilot program that provides training and career opportunities targeted to women and individuals from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities. Xcel proposed to work with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (“DEED”) to create a 13- to 20-week training program to provide around 150 individuals with training in the energy construction field over a period of three years. This would involve a combination of classroom training and hands-on experiences at union centers and construction sites. After completing the training, participants will have the chance to interview with unions and contractors.
At a hearing held on January 13, 2022, the PUC unanimously approved the Pilot Program, making several improvements in the process. Namely, the PUC clarified that outreach surrounding the pilot program should target veterans, in addition to women and BIPOC Minnesotans (though participation in the program is open to anyone and not limited to individuals from these groups). The PUC also clarified and expanded upon the role DEED will have in administering the Program.
We were very pleased with this result – as well as with the process leading to it. At a time when the PUC is hearing many very complicated, often heavily contested matters, it was refreshing to see numerous parties come together to support this program. We look forward to observing the progress of the program and to reviewing status updates Xcel will file as it moves forward.
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