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AmerenUE Workforce Programs: Lineman Pre-Apprentice Program at Florissant Valley Community College Chris Marchioro, PhD CEWD Midwestern Meeting June 2009. V10. Pre-Apprentice Program at Florissant Valley Community College. Why?

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AmerenUE Workforce Programs:Lineman Pre-ApprenticeProgram at Florissant ValleyCommunity CollegeChris Marchioro, PhDCEWD Midwestern MeetingJune 2009


pre apprentice program at florissant valley community college
Pre-Apprentice Program at Florissant Valley Community College
  • Why?
    • Ameren reached out to the school as a workforce planning initiative to fill Lineman positions.
      • Significant retention issues with the apprentices we have brought on—many wash out before finishing our post test, pre-hire evaluation program.
      • Our retention of Linemen in the metro St. Louis area is challenging as many hire into St. Louis then bid to positions located in our outlying districts.
      • Difficulty finding Journeyman Lineman.
        • Currently pay a signing bonus and retention bonus, provide time off incentives in first 2 years, and offer relocation benefits.
pre apprentice program at florissant valley community college1
Pre-Apprentice Program at Florissant Valley Community College
  • Who?
    • St. Louis Community College has 4 campuses in the St. Louis metropolitan area, serving 100,000 students. The college offers 11 university transfer programs and 90 career programs.
    • Ameren currently partners with Flo Valley and offers a scholarship in Electrical Engineering Technology for $130,000.
    • Discussions with the college started in 2007, program was implemented in November 2008.
pre apprentice program at florissant valley community college2
Pre-Apprentice Programat Florissant Valley Community College
  • Initial investment
    • Curriculum development
    • Tools, poles, other resources
  • Ongoing investment
    • Ameren pays approximately $2,000 per student to cover tuition.
  • Communication to candidates
    • Full-time program with no pay or stipend to attend.
    • Program offers a realistic job preview; graduates will not have a degree or certificate, but will know if Linework is right for them.
    • No guarantee of future employment; future employment will only be for Apprentice Lineman vacancies.
    • Those who complete the program will be administered EEI’s Construction and Skilled Trades test.
    • Attendance and engagement, as well as testing disposition, will determine who is invited in for interviews.
pre apprentice program at florissant valley community college3
Pre-Apprentice Program at Florissant Valley Community College
  • Student selection
    • Candidates apply to the college for consideration.
    • College screens students based upon background and experience in construction trades.
    • Top candidates are invited in for informational presentations and interviews with college staff.
    • Class is capped at 30 students.
    • Expected volume of applicants supported using an aptitude test as a screening instrument.
      • College administered the WorkKeys assessment and focused on Math, Reading, and Locating Information. Level 5 was used as an initial cut-off value—lowered the cutoff due to low number of candidates at Level 5.
first session summary
First Session Summary
  • Five week session from November 10 through December 22, 2008.
  • Started with 27 students, ended with 21.
    • Class was racially diverse, one female participant.
    • Five students withdrew during the first week alone due to climbing requirement.
  • Three retired Ameren employees were Instructors.
  • First two weeks of climbing, three weeks of foundational skills, and one week of basic electricity.
  • All 21 students who completed the program were administered the CAST, 2/3 passed.
first session summary continued
First Session Summary, continued
  • 13 of the 14 students went through Evaluations.
    • One student was dropped because of attendance issues; one later withdrew with an unfavorable recommendation from the Instructors.
    • Three withdrew with favorable recommendations from the Instructors; two successfully made it through evaluations but self-selected out.
      • All five were placed into Janitor pool (direct line of promotion to apprentice).
    • Seven participants passed evaluations, four were hired into Apprentice Lineman program, the remaining three were placed in the Janitor pool (they passed evaluations but not at an adequate level).
feedback from first session
Feedback from First Session
  • Need a greater emphasis on climbing during program.
  • Add additional performance activities (transformers, crossarms).
  • Plan for impromptu rainy day activities (rope tying, etc..).
  • Adjust foundational skills instruction to more closely align with relevant components of position and selection processes (to enhance success on test).
  • Drop sixth and final week—basic electricity--and move to a five week curriculum.
    • Redundant because basic electricity will be in the Apprenticeship program.
    • Did not add enough value for the pre-apprentice program.
    • By eliminating the last week the candidates have one less unpaid week.

Feedback solicited from AmerenUE leadership, Ameren’s training center personnel, participants, and the college climbing instructors

program adjustments climbing
Program Adjustments: Climbing
  • College climbing instructors will spend observational time at Ameren’s training facility.
  • Program’s focus will continue to emphasize basic elements of climbing and not on additional activities (transformers, crossarms).
  • Restructure the climbing instruction to allow students to gain more experience.
    • Outfit remaining five poles (estimated cost $15,000).
    • Split class (half at poles, half in classroom).
    • Move to one full week of climbing, followed by one day of climbing per week for remaining weeks.
    • Institute specific performance benchmarks to be met during climbing instruction.
program adjustments foundational skills
Program Adjustments: Foundational Skills
  • Adjust curriculum to more closely align with relevant components of position and selection processes.
  • Explore use of EEI’s Career Assessment and Diagnostic Instrument (CADI).
    • Map CADI profiles to CAST test to see what skills need to be supplemented with more education.
    • Requires Ameren staff resources to administer CADI and provide one-on-one feedback.
  • Increase focus on test-taking strategies (.e.g., speed).
  • Asked first session’s participants how well prepared they were for the selection process (math skill deficits were most common report).
  • Further adjust curriculum based on the participants’ collective performance on the CAST (e.g., where were they particularly strong or weak?).
second session
Second Session
  • Program Recruitment and Selection
    • Over 1,200 applications were received with very little promotion.
      • Reached out to local public workforce system to help recruit.
      • Word spread very fast, at no cost to Ameren or the college (newspaper article helped exposure).
    • 250 applicants (2 were female) were invited in for informational presentations and interviews.
    • All things being equal, preference was given to St. Louis City and County residents to increase retention rates of employees in St. Louis metropolitan area.
    • Final selected class was racially diverse, no females.
  • Admission Process
    • Continued to use Work Keys.
    • Greater emphasis was placed on the physical nature of the job during the assessment phase.
lessons learned and future of program
Lessons Learned and Future of Program
  • The community college network is your friend
    • They will jump through hoops for you.
    • Their mission is to partner with industry.
    • They are plugged into the workforce investment system so have access to funding opportunities.
    • Caveat: They might envision a larger program than you can handle/want.
  • Be very clear with all business partners about criteria for selection
    • Everyone wants a success (a hire), but in this economy need to ensure quality candidates.
  • Consider all available options for funding.
    • 100% employer funded (Our current choice).
    • Tuition-based (with scholarships from the company or without scholarships).
    • Workforce Investment Act funds.
  • Obtain Senior Leadership’s expectations and definition of success early on, and plan the program accordingly.
point of contact
Point of Contact
  • For questions about the Flo Valley Pre-apprentice Program, contact Betsy Finnegan at or 314-554-3829.