By Tony Khing
OAKLAND — If Cameryn Mabry didn’t see information about PG&E’s Better Together STEM High School Internships at her church, she probably would’ve spent the summer working at a grocery store.
Instead, the Skyline High School senior from Oakland took part in the four-week internship, which started in late June and ended in mid-July. Mabry was one of 150 high school students — out of nearly 500 who applied —participating in the program, which was held in six cities throughout PG&E’s service area.
“I really didn’t know too much about PG&E other than my mom sends them a check every month,” said Mabry. “But when I read through the information, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me and something that’s good to put on the resume.”
During the four weeks, the interns were certified in safety, went to PG&E’s Livermore Training Center to climb and deactivate power poles, visited the company’s Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco to learn about energy efficiency and worked on developing their soft skills (resume development and job interviewing).
The interns also received hands-on experience with a company line of business — including service planning and design, transportation services, field metering operations, compliance, customer experience and IT telecom.
Classes were held at various PG&E, community college and high school locations in Arroyo Grande, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento and Stockton. Oakland’s Cypress Mandela Training Center, a longtime PG&E partner in workforce training, played host to the program for the San Francisco Bay Area-based students.
The interns were paid for their time. For many of them, this opportunity was their first job and opened their eyes to PG&E’s daily operation.
“One intern struck me when she said, ‘It’s not just about gas and electricity. There’s so much more about PG&E,’” said Justin Real, senior PowerPathway program manager.
Kirsten Koh, a senior from Hercules High School, had a three-hour commute from Hercules to Oakland and back every day to participate in the internship. She also walked three miles round trip from the Coliseum BART station to PG&E’s Oakport facility near the Oakland International Airport. Koh doesn’t regret rising at dawn for four weeks of her summer vacation and wearing out shoe leather to learn about the energy business.
“I didn’t know anything about PG&E at first,” said Koh, who concluded her internship by working a week in commercial clerical at Oakport. “It’s hard to see what PG&E is until you’ve been on the inside. It’s about people caring and making sure everyone is safe around them. It’s about making sure everyone has the resources to get what they need to live their lives. People take having gas and electricity for granted. They don’t see people working hard to make that happen.”
Recent Skyline High School graduate Jedidiah Burton is considering working for PG&E in cybersecurity after graduating from the University of California, where he’ll be attending as a freshman this fall.
“There’s valuable information worth tens of thousands of dollars that people are trying to get access to on a daily basis,” said Burton. “It’s important that we guard those secrets so we can provide our customers with reliable services.”
As part of the Better Together Giving Program, PG&E has provided nearly $80 million over the last decade in education grants with an emphasis on engaging diverse youth in STEM fields.
The PG&E Better Together STEM High School Internships are an extension of the Better Together Energy Academies created in 2010. The academies allow students in grades 10-12 to participate in energy-themed STEM curriculum that connects strong academics with real world experience.
In 2014, the program expanded to include a paid internship for Energy Academy students to gain practical work experience in their field of study. And this year, the program expanded to include students from any area high school who expressed an interest in an enegy industry career.
The internship also sent the students a strong message about one of PG&E’s core values.
“Diversity is critical to PG&E as a company. We’re absolutely committed to reflecting the communities we serve,” said Emily White, senior community relations specialist. “This program is a way to help us meet this objective.”
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.