Empowering Communities

ComEd Graduates 29 More Teens from its Tools of the Trade Program

August 24, 2023

In partnership with UCAN and the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford, 29 teenagers from the Chicago and Rockford areas graduated this summer from ComEd’s Tools of the Trade, a pre-apprenticeship program designed to address the shortage of skilled trades workers with a focus on developing future construction and electrical professionals. Over seven weeks, students from diverse communities shadowed demonstrations on utility roles, learned how to use construction tools through hands-on projects, and received math and science instruction to prepare for the Construction and Skilled Trade (CAST) exam, a requirement for most positions in the trades.

New to the program this year, participants had the opportunity to demonstrate their newfound skills while giving back to the community. Over the course of two days, both Rockford and Chicago Tools of the Trade students sawed, sanded, and prepped the materials needed to assemble 60 twin size beds for children identified by the St. Joseph Bed Ministry.

Autumn Massier, Tools of the Trade graduate.

“I love getting hands-on experience with tools and working in teams, so the bed build was a lot of fun,” said Autumn Massier, 18, Tools of the Trade graduate. “It’s been great meeting others that are just as passionate about the trades as I am. Everyone is here to learn and to get ahead on the trades.”

For Autumn, following a career in the trades runs in her blood. Growing up with a carpenter and lineman for a father, and a grandfather in the Local 150 operating engineers union, Autumn entered the program with prior welding and electric work experience and hopes to leverage her newfound skills to one day secure a job within the substation division of ComEd’s transmission team.

“At ComEd, the men and women who perform trades roles play a critical role in powering lives for over 9 million people across northern Illinois,” said Neena Hemmady, VP of Support Services, which includes Training. “The clean energy transition in Illinois will create tens of thousands of new jobs in the years ahead, and we’re looking no further than the diverse and talented communities right here at home to build the pipeline needed to power tomorrow’s grid.”

Hemmady is referring to a recent study, commissioned by ComEd, which revealed that as many as 150,000 new jobs will arrive to Illinois by the year 2050 due to its transition to clean energy.

At this year’s Tools of the Trade graduation, students showcased their new construction and electrical skills with a Powering Up Plant to Home project, wooden shoe boxes, a residential wiring project, and variations of knot tying, among others. Since 2016, the Tools of the Trade has been preparing the next generation of utility workers with the knowledge necessary to pass the CAST test, CPR training, and the opportunity to become OSHA 10 certified. In the last week of the program, participants received guidance on resume writing, job searching, and interviewing skills to best promote themselves when applying for apprenticeship roles.

Howard Hogue, Tools of the Trade graduate.

“I never thought I’d be CPR certified, but now I know what to do in an emergency situation. I feel like I was taught everything needed to perform utility jobs safely,” said Howard Hogue, 18, Tools of the Trade graduate. “I can see myself using the skills I learned in the long-term and, even better, I can see myself working at ComEd in the future.”

Though participating in Tools of the Trade is not a requirement to apply for entry-level trades positions, several candidates currently undergoing the hiring process have been able to stand out by listing the program on their resumes. Teens who will be ages 17-19 in the summer of 2024 can prepare for next spring’s Tools of the Trade enrollment by volunteering with relevant groups like Habitat for Humanity, strengthening their math skills during the school year, and requesting more information here. High school graduates looking to kick off their lineworker training this fall are encouraged to register at Dawson Technical Institute Line School or apply for entry-level positions at ComEd as a Construction Worker or an Overhead Helper.