Posted on January 16, 2014

At White House Event, PG&E Expands Education Commitment, Says It Will Add More Energy Academies

By Nicole Liebelt

At an event today (Jan. 16) at the White House dedicated to increasing college opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students, PG&E reinforced its commitment to education by saying it would expand its successful New Energy Academy Program in Northern and Central California.

President Obama spoke about the need to expand the opportunities for low-income students to attend college. (Photo by

PG&E has committed $60 million toward education over the past decade. PG&E’s increased commitment to education was detailed in a document released by the White House today.

PG&E’s expanding educational commitment includes:

  • $1 million by 2016 to high school redesign efforts. The funding could be used to support the existing or the new academies or for other programs that support help support low-income students.
  • Increasing the number of PG&E Academies by 50 percent by 2016. This effort will identify new opportunities and will support additional schools that express and interest in an energy-themed academy.
  • Graduate 1,000 PG&E New Energy Academy (NEA) students by 2020.
  • Maintain a college-bound rate of 75 percent or higher at NEAs. To supplement the efforts of the teaching staff, PG&E will provide internships so that students can gain work experience to help them understand that a job can become a career with a college degree.
  • Advocate for the expansion of partnership academies by connecting California school districts with state and federal funding opportunities.

New Energy Academy students from Bakersfield's Independence High visited Washington D.C, last summer. (Currents Archive Photo.).

The White House “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students” event included remarks from President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The event focused on identifying challenges to getting underserved and low-income students the college prep and support they need and providing solutions.  Gene Sperling, the director of the president’s National Economic Council; Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the president; and Cecelia Munoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, joined the President and First Lady at the event.

Panel discussions included researchers, academics, state officials and college presidents, such as University of California President Janet Napolitano, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Melissa Lavinson, PG&E’s vice president of federal affairs, attended the event and said the company was honored to participate.

Melissa Lavinson, PG&E’s vice president of federal affairs, attended the White House college opportunity event.

“Through the PG&E New Energy Academy Program, we are investing in the future of California by educating, preparing and training today’s high school students for energy sector jobs of tomorrow,” Lavinson said. “It was an honor to share our experiences with others during today’s event, as well as hearing what others are doing around the country to provide our youth the tools to help them succeed for years to come.”

At the event, Deloitte made a joint commitment with Walmart, Costco, the Samberg Family Foundation and the Bezos Foundation to join with College Summit to provide $5 million over five years to train 500 college counselors in 10 communities across United States to help train and provide support to those that advise and help the kids they are trying to reach.

In 2009, PG&E created the New Energy Academy program, California’s first immersive energy training program of its kind for high school students. The program aimed to address the needs of a growing energy-sector workforce and to better prepare underserved students viable and successful futures upon graduation.

With careful planning, curriculum-building and teacher training, the five academies welcomed the first classes in fall 2010. In 2013, more than 150 students in Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Berkeley and Sacramento successfully graduated as part of PG&E’s New Energy Academy Program, with nearly 80 percent of these students planning to attend community college or a four-year university.

The NEAs are just one example of PG&E’s commitment to education.

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, spoke at today's event.

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, spoke at today's event.

At the White House event, the issue of affordability was raised by College Board President David Coleman. That’s one of the PG&E’s motivations behind its Bright Minds Scholarship program which provides college scholarships to 100 students each year.  Awards range from $2,500 one-time scholarships to $30,000 renewable scholarships. 200 students have benefited from the more than $2 million has been dedicated towards this in the last two years.

(Click here to watch a video story on the 2013 Bright Minds winners.)

Additionally, PG&E’s Summer Jobs program is a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs and provides job readiness training to low-income high school students each summer and places the top candidates in paid community-based internships.  PG&E provides a grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs to fund the training and pay the wages for the students. More than $1 million has been committed to this effort over the last two years, resulting in around 1,000 job-ready students, 275 paid internships and 20 job offers.

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