New ComEd Overhead Apprentice Recounts the Start of Something GreatNovember 13, 2023
These days, LaKoya Hampton supports a crew of line workers at ComEd as an Overhead Electrical Starter, but only a year ago, a career in the trades had not crossed her mind. LaKoya had just moved back from Texas to her hometown of Chicago for a fresh start and was in search of new opportunities.
“I became curious about handy work and had heard it was a good time to join the utilities,” said LaKoya. “I was looking for opportunities to move up the ladder quickly, and soon realized that the poles I drive past every day offered much more than I ever thought.”
A community job fair connected her to ComEd’s CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy, a training program that exposes participants to entry-level positions in the utility and construction field. There, LaKoya learned basic carpentry and electrical work, but her biggest takeaway was the growing demand for skills to propel Illinois’ transition to a clean energy future.
This transition will create a large number of jobs – including many in LaKoya’s line of work. A recent study, commissioned by ComEd, found that the clean energy transition will bring upwards of 150,000 jobs to Illinois by the year 2050. The electric grid will need to work in new ways to enable the adoption of electric vehicles, solar panels, and clean energy technologies like heat pumps. Programs like CONSTRUCT, which has graduated more than 800 residents, play a key role in developing a pipeline needed to support the evolving grid.
“The clean energy transition requires a larger pool of qualified workers who are ready to maintain and enhance our current grid along with creating the electric grid of the future,” said Norm Curtis, senior manager of Electric Operations in ComEd’s Training and Methods department. “Workforce programs like CONSTRUCT are introducing more members of the community to opportunities that they might’ve overlooked. Our fast-growing energy industry is offering not just jobs, but family-sustaining careers.”
After graduating from CONSTRUCT, LaKoya landed a position at ComEd as an Overhead Helper during which time she began the almost 3-year-long electrical apprenticeship – starting in Overhead Basic School, a six-month, work-study program that puts trainees’ minds and bodies to the test. “Overhead Basic was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” chuckled LaKoya. “I climbed poles 40 feet into the air every day for 15 weeks while wearing 50 lbs. of equipment. But it was all worth it.” For LaKoya, completing the first of three progression schools leading up to becoming a line worker was significant. “It was really rewarding because although I’ve always had aspirations, I had never followed them through. This was the first time since high school that I completed something.”
LaKoya’s new role didn’t just land her a career she’s grown a passion for, but also a family-sustaining wage and a chance at upward mobility. On average, entry-level trades roles at ComEd earn about $29 an hour. “It’s amazing to see my plans come to fruition. Since I started this journey, I’ve matured a lot, I’ve gotten in much better shape, and have improved my financial position,” said LaKoya. “I now have stability and know that I’ll never have to worry about providing for my family. Joining the trades at ComEd is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
LaKoya is now undergoing on-the-job training, putting into practice what she learned in Overhead Basic before she enters the second progression school of her apprenticeship in her journey to becoming a line worker.
Apprenticeships remain a key gateway to meeting a growing demand for trades workers in the U.S., and utilities work is no exception. ComEd’s programs are expanding to meet future needs – with this year’s overhead apprenticeship program serving over 300 participants, more than double since 2018.
Job seekers can learn more about ComEd apprenticeship training and career opportunities at www.comed.com/careers. For more information on workforce training programs, please visit www.comed.com/cleanenergyjobs.