By Chip Buchanan
OAKLAND — Lauren Gonzales inspected helicopters in the United States Marine Corps, but at a recent volunteer event she was inspecting pears. She was one of 15 PG&E PowerPathway students who helped package fruit at Alameda County Community Food Bank.
After serving five years in North Carolina, Gonzales, a Brentwood native, was looking for work. She signed up for PG&E’s PowerPathway program and quickly began hands-on career training.
“Right out of getting out of the Marine Corps, I was doing some online job searching. I’ve had family members who work for PG&E and I saw this great program for veterans—and I instantly applied. A week later after getting out I was getting called for an interview,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales and her peers will receive certification as coating inspectors for gas service. PG&E welcomes former military personnel and values their skills and discipline as a good fit for the company. Along with their technical training, the students are learning stewardship, too. They haven’t been hired yet, but are already giving back.
Liz Torres from San Francisco said that community matters to her.
“It means a lot, because I know a lot of people that struggle up and don’t have enough money that need to go to like these programs and pick up food. So that means a lot to me. That’s what I like about PG&E,” said Torres, another PowerPathway student.
PowerPathway Senior Program Manager Justin Real said that 82 percent of graduates go to work in the industry, and about half of them for PG&E.
“One of the coolest things about it is, not only are we getting about half the class coming at PG&E, but also a lot of these students are going to contractors, folks like East Bay MUD, Comcast, BART and even CalTrans, and a lot of work that is partnered up with the work we do at PG&E,” said Real.
PG&E is one of several corporate partners aiding the food bank in its mission. The nonprofit organization serves 116,000 families per month, delivering 26 million pounds of food — half of it fresh produce. Judah Godoy, volunteer logistics coordinator at the food bank, said the help is sorely needed.
“PG&E actually has been with us for a number of years, in these recent years though they’ve actually been coming in stronger force, bigger numbers and working with our other departments as well,” said Godoy.
The event was one of dozens throughout Northern and Central California the company is sponsoring in April as part of its annual Month of Service.
While PG&E is creating jobs it also plays a part in giving back to the community. For these volunteers, it’s another way the Power of Blue is helping to build a better California.
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