CHICAGO – Last Thursday, the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP) hosted a celebration at the Pritzker Military Library and Museum to honor the 500th veteran to graduate from the Gas Utility Workers Training Program.
The Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) established UMAP in Chicago with UWUA Local 18007 and Peoples Gas after identifying a critical need to put veterans who had honorably served their country into skilled careers.
The Peoples Gas System Modernization Program (SMP), focused on upgrading over 2,000 miles of aging natural gas infrastructure within the city of Chicago, created the jobs that made the program possible.
During the seven-month “training-to-placement” program, veterans develop the technical skills needed to work in Illinois’ natural gas industry through in-the-field training and classroom instruction administered by City Colleges of Chicago’s Kennedy-King College Dawson Technical Institute.
Participants who complete the program earn 52 units of college credit toward their associate degree and go on to earn full-time technical positions at Peoples Gas. To date, the company has hired 401 veterans from the program.
Richard Passarelli, a Navy veteran and former union president who now serves as the national director of veterans affairs for UWUA, founded the program in 2011. “We were preparing for massive retirements, while facing increasing demands for work created by our aging infrastructure,” Passarelli said.
“At the same, veterans were facing the highest unemployment numbers in our history. The program was a clear opportunity to leverage our mutual needs to better the lives of our veterans and improve our talent pipeline. I could not be more proud of where we stand today – seven years later – with our 500th graduate of the 20th cohort.”
“UMAP continues to deliver highly skilled candidates at a time when our business is focusing on modernizing Chicago’s natural gas infrastructure so that we can continue to deliver safe and reliable service to our customers,” said Peoples Gas President and CEO Charles Matthews. “We are committed to continuing this vital program in partnership with our union leaders from UWUA Local 18007.”
“Through powerful partnerships like this one, we are creating meaningful, upwardly mobile career opportunities for Chicagoans,” said City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado. “The program is truly special because of the intentional focus and support it offers to our community’s veterans.”
During the celebration, veterans like Andy Cancel, an Army reservist who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, reflected on how the program had impacted them.
“UMAP really reshaped my life; without it I would not have survived that very tragic time,” Cancel said. “I am grateful to all of the instructors and those who helped me along the way for their support. This extraordinary partnership between Local 18007, Peoples Gas and so many others that I met along the way has saved me and my family.”
The program is a public-private partnership and includes support from multiple partners including the Chicago Federation of Labor Workforce and Community Initiative, the UWUA Power for America Trust, Peoples Gas, City Colleges of Chicago, the Workforce Investment Act, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
For information on how to participate in this program, visit www.power4america.org.
Peoples Gas, a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group (NYSE: WEC), is a regulated natural gas delivery company that serves more than 869,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the city of Chicago. You can find more information about natural gas safety, energy efficiency and other energy-related topics at peoplesgasdelivery.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook @peoplegaschi.
The Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO (UWUA) is one of the most successful and progressive unions in all of the labor movement with over 50,000 members working in the electric, gas, water and nuclear industries across the United States. Visit https://uwua.net/ for more information.
City Colleges of Chicago prepares more than 80,000 students annually with a quality, affordable education leading to transfer, careers and a path to upward mobility. City Colleges encompasses seven colleges: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Wilbur Wright College and Harold Washington College; five satellite sites: Dawson Technical Institute, South Chicago Learning Center, Arturo Velasquez Institute, Wright-Humboldt Park and the Westside Learning Center; and Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute. For more information about City Colleges of Chicago, or to register, call 773–COLLEGE (773-265-5343) or visit ccc.edu, Facebook (City Colleges of Chicago), Twitter (@ChiCityColleges) or Instagram (citycollegeschicago).