Pacific Gas & Electric Company
New Energy Academy: A partnership with the California Department of Education based on the California Partnership Academy model
November 2011 -- Like many companies, Pacific Gas& Electric Company (PG&E) has a strong commitment to education. Also like many companies, it funds local schools in the communities where its employees live and work. However, in 2009, PG&E made a commitment unlike any other company. It made a bold move to take its education support to a new level in California by being the first private enterprise to partner directly with the California Department of Education to build a specific career-themed academy and be involved in every facet of developing the curriculum.
The New Energy Academy was borne out of this effort and is in its second year at five high schools in Northern and Central California. Venture Academy (Stockton), Foothill High School (Sacramento), Independence High School (Bakersfield), Edison High School (Fresno) and Berkeley High School (Berkeley) each welcomed their second class of sophomores who have made the commitment to a 3-year intensive course of study.In addition to completing all of the “regular” high school requirements, New Energy Academy students participate in academic and technical courses focused on the energy/environmental sectors. Energy and environmental concepts are incorporated throughout different types of required courses. For example, the algebra class for New Energy Academy teaches the concepts in a way that is relevant within the energy industry. In this way, students can see the real-life application of what they are studying in a way that eliminates the age old question “When will I ever use this again?”
|New Energy AcademyPG&E has partnered directly with the California Department of Education to build a specific career-themed academy and is involved in every facet of developing the curriculum.
The decision to build the New Energy Academy was not a small one – or one that PG&E took lightly. The company carefully studied this opportunity before making a commitment to support the development of this program. And the more it learned, the more it liked. The benefits of this program are far-reaching: it addresses issues that were of concern to the company as well as to the community. The program is designed to ensure that 50% of the students enrolled are considered “at-risk” as defined in education code. This evaluation includes looking at both academic performance and economic factors in determining the risk. Students must also demonstrate an interest in enrolling and a commitment for the full three year program. PG&E also hopes that through the New Energy Academy, students may begin to define a future for themselves in the energy industry which is facing an aging workforce and needs to find innovative ways to introduce and encourage interest in this field of study. Learning about renewable and clean energy development is a core element of the curriculum and an essential part of energy’s future.
With so much alignment between business, employee and customer interests, it’s no wonder that PG&E employees donated over 700 hours to working with the core team to develop the curriculum. Employees staffed career fairs, provided insight and expertise to curriculum development teams, provided technical support, guided field trips and hosted site visits.
Today, employees continue to serve as guest speakers and advisors to the schools and at the annual New Energy Academy Summer Institute for the teachers. The student response has been positive and encouraging. PG&E provided an additional incentive to the inaugural class of students – complete the three year program and graduate with a $1,000 scholarship. Just as important is to keep the teachers excited and motivated. To help reach that goal, the New Energy Academy received $100,000 per school for classroom improvements, supplies and innovative learning opportunities.
The New Energy Academy was recently recognized by the National Career Academy Coalition with an “Academy Award” for best in class for public/private partnerships. While that is certainly something to be proud of, the most rewarding achievement will be when the first graduates cross the platform to pick up their diplomas. For many, that walk will be the first of many times they will demonstrate how they are beating the odds.
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