By: Tom Lambert

Matt Conn sought a new challenge along his career path.

It was 2019, and he had been working at Consumers Energy for six years, having joined the company after service in the Army. He had worked as a natural gas field worker, and most recently as a trenching machine operator.

He saw a job posting about a new company apprenticeship program with a focus on renewable energy.

Fast forward to Feb. 9, and Conn is one of four employees who is about to embark on a renewables career after graduating with the first class of the Renewable Specialist Apprenticeship. It was formed in a partnership with the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC).

The nearly three-year program, developed jointly by our Learning and Development team and Power for America (P4A), trains apprentices to climb great heights to fix hydraulics and complete advanced electrical troubleshooting. Once they complete the program, apprentices are certified to work in wind, solar and battery fields.

“This is the future, and there’s no place in this company I would rather be,” said Conn, who lives in Birch Run. “This is a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for this class.”

Joining Conn in the first class are:

  • Keith Boulis of Bay City, who started with the company in 2013 as a meter reader and was an auxiliary operator at the Karn plant, which is scheduled to close in 2023.
  • Paul Turner of Midland, who joined the company in 2016 as a natural gas laborer on the enhanced infrastructure replacement program team. He joined the company after serving in the Army.
  • Justin Fodo of Bay City, who began his Consumers Energy career in 2018 as a gas field worker and then was an environmental operator at the Karn plant.

Andrew Snider, Director of Renewable Operations, said this first class worked as a team and put in long training hours to become renewable specialists. Snider added the class helped to smooth out bumps in the road for enrollees in the program’s second and third classes.

The program is preparing to hire and train up to 24 additional renewables employees over the next two years – and helps ensure no worker is left behind in our clean energy transformation.