November marks Native American Heritage Month, which recognizes the significant contributions tribes have made to our community, Arizona and the West.
SRP has long-standing relationships with many native tribes, and we work together to protect our watershed and bring energy to the region.
These relationships are critical to the health of our communities and natural resources. SRP is deeply committed to sustaining tribal relations for future generations, whether by investing in green energy at the Kayenta solar facility, finding opportunities to partner on community initiatives or retraining workers for jobs of the future through the Apprenti program.
Apprenti: Building a future from the past
Recently, after many years of attempts to find alternative solutions, SRP made the difficult decision to close Navajo Generating Station (NGS), SRP’s flagship coal-fired power plant since the 1970s.
For four decades, NGS employees — most of whom are members of the Navajo Nation — worked tirelessly to make the plant one of the safest and most reliable in the nation.
Of the approximately 300 NGS employees who chose to remain with the company, 100% have been redeployed to other positions at SRP, primarily in the Phoenix area. This follows a commitment from SRP to offer positions to every NGS employee who wanted one.
This process, while challenging, has led to some exciting opportunities.
A change for the future
Former NGS employees such as Skyler June are making a big transition from an industrial setting to an office setting and getting accustomed to city life.
“I worked at the plant for almost 11 years as an operation and maintenance specialist, where I watched the water, steam, fire and coal systems,” explained 33-year-old June. “I’ve always been good at different jobs, but a quiet office is definitely a different environment from being in a potentially hazardous, safety-critical setting.”
June is one of 10 former NGS employees being retrained to be an information technology business analyst at SRP through Apprenti, one of the state’s first registered tech apprenticeships. The innovative retraining program received funding from the Coconino County Career Center and is taught by instructors from Coconino Community College and Northern Arizona University.
A workforce built for the future
“The goal of the Apprenti program at SRP is to provide exceptional opportunities to highly skilled employees during the redeployment of NGS,” said Tina Drews, SRP’s Director of Talent Management.
“Information technology is a growing area, especially in the utility industry, and we want to provide apprenticeships that will fill our needs for the workforce of the future. In addition, our apprentices from NGS bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about operations, and that can be hard to find in traditional IT professionals.”
Apprenti was introduced to SRP through the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation in early 2018. It became a solution to address the redeployment effort of NGS employees into Phoenix-area positions. SRP partnered with Apprenti, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operated by the Washington Technology Industry Association, to reskill NGS employees for mid-level IT business analyst positions.
June and his Apprenti classmates will remain paid SRP employees as they undergo three months of intense classroom instruction and a year of on-the-job training at an SRP facility in the Valley. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, they will start their new tech careers with SRP.
For June, being an IT apprentice has provided both a new career path and a boost in confidence.
“Moving my entire life down here to a hot setting and an apartment with a crowded neighborhood that I’m not used to is different,” June said. “But I’ve always been one to try to achieve and climb up the ladder. If the plant wasn’t closing down, I would be really striving to run the control room, but things didn’t go that way, so I just found a different ladder to climb. This was my lifeline and an amazing opportunity.”