Finding New Ways to Train During a Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Power for America (P4A) was getting ready to ramp up training for current and potential UWUA members. State stay-at-home orders forced all in-person trainings to be suspended. As the pandemic continued, P4A looked for new ways to re-start trainings for members.

Pictured left – The 24th graduating class of the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP) overcame many obstacles posed by COVID-19.

eLearning success

One example of a new approach to training was P4A’s assistance in purchasing eLearning licenses for UWUA members at American Water to take online trainings. Building on P4A’s success with eLearning licenses in 2019, when over 900 members took approximately 3,000 safety trainings, eLearning licenses were renewed and 1,400 UWUA members at American Water took over 6,000 safety classes in the first six months of 2020.

With this as a successful model, when COVID-19 struck, P4A collaborated with the UWUA’s national safety representatives to create a series of COVID-19 specific housekeeping videos. The videos emphasize the importance of cleaning tools daily as well as how to keep PPE clean. The series of videos were viewed over 1,500 times in May and June alone. P4A is now working with UWUA officers and staff on creating more videos to help members out in the field. If you have an idea for a future video, e-mail P4A executive director Jon Harmon at

UMAP re-start

Working with union safety reps and advocates, P4A was able to re-start the Utility Workers Military Assistance Programs (UMAP) in Chicago and Michigan. In both cases, P4A developed COVID-19 preparedness plans that were used at the Potterville, MI training center. This received praise from the Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC) and Consumers Energy for keeping veterans safe while in the classroom and out in the lab.

When this plan was shared with Chicago city and college officials, they adopted it for the re-start of the training at Dawson Technical Institute. The plan was so successful, it allowed other college trade programs to restart their trainings as well. Forty-four veterans were able to finish their respective trainings and are now out in the field working in gas distribution and construction. (See page 19 for more on UMAP.)

So what’s next for P4A trainings?  With these successes, trainings are beginning to pick back up. Many employers are trying to fit in trainings before the end of 2020. P4A instructors are excited to be back in the classroom at a social distance, with members and new hires.

Pictured right – Social distancing was enforced in UMAP’s Chicago training facility with the use of vests to mark spacing between students.