By Tony Khing
Daly City native John Paul Urbina spent the end of his eight years in the Navy as a quartermaster who was a ship navigator. “We’d steer the ship, plot our destinations on charts and communicated with other ships out at sea through raising flags and performing Morse code,” he said.
John Paul Urbina when he served in the U.S. Navy.
Today, Urbina is an associate real time asset manager in San Francisco. He’s responsible for monitoring, dispatching and controlling PG&E’s portfolio of gas and electricity.
Urbina found his opportunity thanks to PowerPathway, PG&E’s nationally-recognized jobs training program aimed at growing the talent pool for the next generation of utility workers. For more than 12 years, PowerPathway has graduated more than 1,050 individuals with about 92 percent being hired for careers with PG&E or the utility industry.
Veterans like Urbina have greatly benefited from PowerPathway. Nearly half of the program’s graduates served in the armed forces.
“After I discharged, I wanted to get my college degree and find a company that impacts people’s lives,” said Urbina. “I couldn’t think of a better company than PG&E because they supply power to a majority of California and are constantly finding better ways to improve its services to customers.”
A stroke of luck and hard work pays off…
Urbina had applied for a job with PG&E many times after leaving the Navy, but wasn’t successful. Then one day while working as a traffic controller for another company, he met Kendrick Li, an Electric Operations distribution supervisor out of San Carlos.
John Paul Urbina is now an associate real time asset manager for PG&E.
Urbina told Li he was thinking about returning to the Navy and becoming an officer because he couldn’t get into the company. Li told him about PowerPathway.
“He said the program is a great way to introduce yourself to the company,” said Urbina. “He said I’d have a great chance to get a job soon after I completed the program.”
Urbina successfully applied for the 2019 San Jose Entry to Electric Operations Program. He said he learned how to climb power poles and towers and “studied vigorously. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Urbina graduated as his class valedictorian and spoke at the graduation ceremonies. Shortly after his classes ended, he joined the company as an electric utility worker with aspirations of becoming a lineman. But then Urbina saw the posting for the associate real time asset manager role, submitted his application and started his new role this past March.
“It reminded me a lot of what I used to do in the Navy with the fast-paced environment,” said Urbina.
…Not to mention getting some help
Another veteran who benefited from PowerPathway is Steve Salo, a Santa Rosa-based construction inspector.
Steve Salo was a combat engineer and radio operator in the U.S. Army.
After serving as a combat engineer and radio operator in the Army, Salo was a casino operations manager. But after losing his job, Salo was looking for an opportunity when Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based Bay Area non-profit that helps veterans in need, contacted Salo about registering for a Gas Pipeline Inspectors training cohort they were co-sponsoring with PG&E.
Salo graduated from the training classes in 2016 and has been employed by PG&E for five years.
“PG&E is not just a job, but a career,” said Janae Thomas, Swords to Plowshares program director of employment and training. “The amount of training, support and teamwork given in the company’s environment creates an opportunity for success.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped PowerPathway from continuing to develop careers. Earlier this year, the company held an Entry to Gas Operations San Jose training program. Recently, PG&E partnered with Swords to Plowshares for a three-week online training program for veterans. Participants worked on their resumes, interviewing techniques and heard from guest speakers about working for the company.
Today, Steve Salo is a PG&E construction inspector.
According to Justin Real, PowerPathway expert program manager, the company is committed to hiring 1,000 veterans by 2023 and is planning on holding additional online training sessions over the next few months. Real, along with fellow PowerPathway Expert Program Manager Alex Baker, lead the development, recruitment and implementation of the programs.
If Urbina’s experience is any indication, veterans would be wise to take his advice.
“PG&E is the best company I’ve worked for outside of the Navy,” said Urbina, “because of my great coworkers and amazing benefits. This is my career. I love it and plan to do 30-plus years here.”
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.
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