Sensing a Trend

This week, the male students from the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy toured the Eaton Power Systems Experience Center (PSEC). This week’s visit to PSEC followed the female class’ visit earlier this month. We once again thank our hosts Eaton, Ferry Electric, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 5.

Dan Carnovale of Eaton and team once again delivered an impactful day of hands-on experiences for the students; illustrating the type of work and technologies encountered in the power industry and electrical fields. I thought tour hosts couldn’t exceed the female class experience, but I was proved wrong. And glad for it.

The second visit to the Experience Center got me reflecting on our prior site visits and a consistent, common theme that has developed.

Through the Mentorship Academy program, we heard from Steamfitters Local 449, Iron Workers Local 3, Carpenters Local 432, Shell, Community College of Beaver County, Deep Well Services, Evolution, IBEW Local 5, Eaton, and Ferry Electric. Very different enterprises and organizations, but all resonating a singular message.

That message is powerful: a student graduating high school with decent grades and not desiring to attend college can fill out an application, perhaps pay a nominal $25 filing fee, prepare for and take an assessment exam and/or interview, and then enter an apprenticeship/training program where they immediately start earning money.

When the apprenticeship or training program is completed, the individual begins to earn a family-sustaining wage and is well on their way to a challenging career and financial independence. The time required to reach this status might be as short as a few weeks to as long as a few years, but the rewards are consistently striking: high hourly wage rates, generous overtime rates, 401k plans, healthcare, and tuition reimbursement for those looking to attend college while working. All in, the total compensation package for most of these professions is above $100,000 a year.

Better yet, every site, company, building trade, and institution we’ve visited are all eager to hire the next generation of workers to drive their effort. The path is established, the money and opportunities are there, and the job openings need filled.

And best of all, each of these career paths offer advancement into related but higher levels of responsibility, whether it be salaried positions in management or design/supervisory roles in operations. All kinds of options to choose from in how one’s career path unfolds.

This is an awesome and massive opportunity for the students in the Mentorship Academy. So, we are pivoting toward resume building, deeper dives via job shadowing, and interview/exam prep. By the time summer rolls around, Academy students are going to enter the workforce prepared.

There is one final thought when reflecting on the Mentorship Academy to date. Why aren’t these realities more well known throughout our region, our schools, our communities, and our minds? Where is the beating of the drum when it comes to our regional leaders vocalizing these lucrative professional paths for our young adults? It’s especially perplexing considering that the eternally promoted path of a college degree in a non-STEM field simply cannot compete economically.

The middle class is calling. Let’s answer the call.

Visit to learn more about Eaton, and follow them on Twitter at @eatoncorp, at @ETN_Electrical, and on Facebook and on YouTube.

The Mentorship Academy is an initiative of CNX Foundation and part of CNX’s commitment to investing in its local community. Designed for high school students who do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college, the Academy is focused on providing urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged regional Appalachian communities with greater opportunities—helping provide these young adults a bridge to family-sustaining careers. Following the mentorship program, students will have developed new relationships with peers and business leaders across western Pennsylvania, a new excitement for the region’s career opportunities and an understanding of how to pursue those careers.

Sensing a Trend