From Signing Day to Signing Up

The CNX Foundation’s Mentorship Academy held its first-ever recruiting cookout last week, almost a year to the day from the Mentorship Academy’s inaugural class kick-off.

The cookout follows a busy Academy summer, which included our inaugural class graduating this past June, and July’s “signing day” event where CNX celebrated hiring six of the inaugural Academy class graduates.

Last week’s get-to-know-you event for the second-year class served as an amazing example of what the Mentorship Academy has become.

Over 50 students from western Pennsylvania’s urban and rural school districts expressed interest in being considered for the Academy’s second year class. Dozens were able to attend the recruiting cookout on the ‘HQ at CNX’ rooftop.

The weather was perfect, and the food was great. But the conversations were the best part of the event.  Students open up when they feel at ease and when they establish a level of trust with those around them.

Mentors play a crucial role in the execution of the Academy’s mission, because they are the key to establishing trust.

This year we have more mentors, most have a year’s worth of experience under their belt, and it seems that everyone shares an excitement about the chance to perform the role even better than the prior year.  Those characteristics go a long way in connecting to new students.

Another pivotal aspect of this year’s effort is that many of the second-year recruits were referred by first-year students.

Meeting new students around the rooftop cookout that day brought numerous “I’m friends with” or “I’m cousins with” a student who participated in the first-year class.  Which means many of the recruits have a decent idea of what the Academy is about. Word-of-mouth credibility built with last year’s students converts to comfort and openness to those who are referred for the second-year class.

And speaking of those first-year students, many of the rising seniors wanted to come back for a second year of the Academy during their senior year of high school. This group showed up in force at the cookout last week and made a huge difference. They have transformed into leaders among their peers.

In fact, prior to the event, the CNX Foundation team was talking about how we describe to the second-year recruits what the Mentorship Academy is about and what they can expect. At the cookout, it hit me just prior to my brief remarks as to how to explain the Academy to these new students. I said, “Look around. You’ve been talking to and sitting with students from last year’s class. You see that confidence? You notice how they handle themselves? Their excitement about what’s to come? That’s what you will embody after a year in the Academy, if you apply yourself.”

Everyone talks glibly about how time flies; how you should make every moment count.  Then there are those instances in life when the glib transforms to the profound. Grab ahold of such moments with both hands, and don’t let go.

It’s year two. Let’s go.

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.

Remarks Delivered at Inaugural Mentorship Academy Class Graduation Ceremony

CNX Resources President and CEO Nick Deiuliis delivered the following remarks to the inaugural CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy Class at their June 1, 2022, graduation ceremony.
The ceremony represented not only a significant milestone for students, but also affirmed the pioneering initiative’s concept: provide urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged communities with greater opportunities and a bridge to family-sustaining careers that do not require a college degree.
Following this successful first year, the Academy is now working to expand the program to ensure every school district in every disadvantaged community in the region is aware of its offerings and format. CNX Foundation envisions the program being replicated by others in Appalachia, resulting in a stronger, more prosperous middle class.

Good evening friends, colleagues, mentors, parents, partners—and most importantly—Academy students.

We could, and we should, spend time thanking and acknowledging a host of different people and groups who made the past year possible.

Partner companies like Alex Paris Contracting, Deep Well, Ferry Electric, Evolution, Chef Claudy at the EAT Initiative, Eaton, Shell, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Aramark, AEG, and Bettis Brothers. All the local building trades have been awesome partners: the Steamfitters, Iron Workers, Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, and Carpenters. This year would never have been the success it was without you taking the time out to highlight the career opportunities awaiting these students in western Pennsylvania.

We also need to express our gratitude to two regional community colleges that played a pivotal role in this inaugural class: the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). Dr. Bullock, the President of CCAC, has been a valued advisor to me this past year and his team continually help us to ultimately deliver on what we initially propose. That is important because I tend to commit to things that every once in a while are great ideas with much potential, but that require expertise in the real world to bring home. Our regional community colleges have that exact type of expertise. I went from liking our regional community colleges to loving them. CCAC and CCBC are regional crown jewels.

We also need to thank the glue of this effort, the mentors that invested that valuable face time with the students not just at the scheduled events, but more importantly offline in the time between the scheduled events. Mentors like Jamal (also one of the Academy’s originators), Coach Bud, Coach T, Krista, Shawnie, Lee, and Tom. CNX coworkers who stepped up as mentors: Dan, Tracy, Joan, and Shilpa. I work with the best people in the world, and these four who put the extra time in to serve as mentors have set a new bar for what it means to be working alongside exceptional people. They motivate me to perform even better.

And of course, we need to thank the CNX Foundation and its Board of Directors for providing the resources to be able to run an effective program across a significant period of time.

However, when preparing for this evening’s event, the Academy leadership team decided there would be plenty of time after today to thank these partner groups and individuals. Today is dedicated to these students.

They are, you are, the ‘why?’ that gave us the guts, or naivety, to try this out. And their/your success through the past year’s program is the reason why we are here today. To celebrate them. To celebrate you.

Where do you start when it comes to the young men and women of our inaugural Academy class? I see a series of comparisons and contrasts. How they came in this past August, and where they are now.

  • Then: Their heads were down and noncommunicative. Pretty quiet bunch at first. Now: Heads are held high and expressive. That makes an awesome first impression to anyone meeting you.
  • Then: Anxious and apprehensive. Now: Cautiously confident. I love that term ‘cautiously confident’ because these students don’t have confidence bordering on arrogance, but instead that all-important balance of thinking things through with running down what’s next. That balance will serve you well through life.
  • Then: Unaware of who they can be professionally. Now: Self-aware of options in front of them.
  • Then: Didn’t know what opportunity sits in this region for them beyond their zip code. Now: Eyes wide open on career paths all over this region.
  • Then: I remember saying how we were going to build a resume and half the students looked at me and replied, “What’s a resume?” Now: Not only do you have resumes, but, more importantly, you sport resumes that have substance, are stacked with great content, and that are superior to 90+% of who you will compete with for career opportunity. And remember what we discussed: that resume is not a one-and-done thing. Instead, it is a process that never ends. Always be on the lookout to develop a new skill, pursue a new experience, and volunteer for a new effort. All of these can be added to and supplement what is already an impressive resume. Your resume is your life’s work.
  • Then: A limited network when it came to regional players. Now: A regional network that would make a more experienced professional envious. The people and entities you now know that will vouch for you, that will open a door for you, are about as good as it gets for anyone, including individuals ten years older than you.
  • Then: Reactive and waiting. Now: Proactive and first movers. You are leaders.
  • Then: No one knowing anyone else, with an exception or two. Now: A tight group of friends moving forward. My hope is that you keep in close contact and continue helping each other out twenty years from now. Stay close to your classmates, you are all going places.

And the most important difference of all? Today you have a room full of lifelong supporters that will be there when you need us, stand by you, assist you, advise you, and be there for you.

But this a two-way street, you see. You have a crucial part. No, check that, you have the most important part. Your job, students, is to make the most of what is in front of you. To grab ahold of that potential and convert it into something tangible. For you and your self-interest: this is the time for you to be selfish and achieve. Because to the extent you are and do so, you will pull along in your successes your family, your community, and this region we all love.

I know you all too well now. I know you have what it takes. I know that you know you have what it takes. So, if it doesn’t happen from here forward, that would be a shame. This is not a drill. This is life. You get one shot. Time to make the most of it.

And you will hit roadblocks, experience setbacks, and stumble from time to time. Chasing excellence and pursuing achievement demands these things happen from time to time. Overcoming adversity is part of the journey. Like Coach V once said: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” You just keep doing.

I’ve been around this company now for over thirty years, and I was just a little bit older than you when I started here. I lived my entire life in this great region. I look at you and I see me. You are me. I am you. Want to know why this region is the greatest place in the world and why I stayed here? Look around this room at these great people. Question answered.

I look at you and I see me. You are me. I am you. Want to know why this region is the greatest place in the world and why I stayed here? Look around this room at these great people. Question answered.
– NICK DEIULIIS

Launching the Academy, getting to know you, and seeing everyone’s unique development has been one of the greatest things I have been part of in 32 years—and I have been fortunate to have been a part of many great things. I thank you for letting me and CNX and the rest of us to become part of your world. From everyone here today, we love you. And we are just getting started.

You’re going to receive a diploma and memento. The memento has a quote on it that I ask you remember and consider as a credo in the coming years. It’s short and sweet. It says: “To be is to do.” The person who said it in the 1700s was one of the great all-time minds: Immanuel Kant. No one talks much about him these days, but that guy started what is known as the Enlightenment, a movement that vastly improved the human condition and played a big role in why we enjoy what we do today. That simple sentence from hundreds of years ago provides just about all the philosophy you will need this summer, next year, and the next thirty years of your career.

Yeah, like another great mind from a while ago once said, this is not the end. This isn’t even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning. Get out there and go do.

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.

When Dr. Vlad and Chef Claudy Walk into a Room…

Last week, students in the inaugural class of the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy convened in downtown Pittsburgh at the Energy Innovation Center to hear from two regional leaders and to develop a few culinary skills.

Dr. Vladimir St. Surin is the Dean of Students at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC).  He is one of those success stories regarding how western Pennsylvania can recruit and retain the best and brightest.  Dr. Vlad’s family hails from Haiti by way of New York City, and he arrived in the Steel City to play football at Robert Morris University.  And he never left town.

As Dean of Students, Dr. Vlad manages the full spectrum of issues facing those enrolled at CCAC, including applications, logistics, interaction with faculty, and advisement.  He’s heard it all and seen it all during his 15-year tenure at CCAC.

That experience showed when Dr. Vlad addressed the Mentorship Academy class.  He holds an all-too-rare talent:  the ability to speak ‘with’ a person and not ‘at’ them.  Couple that talent with his personable approach, and you have an effective means to connect to students and manage the most challenging or stressful of issues.

Dr. Vlad emphasized to the Mentorship Academy students the importance of a career plan and having a plan-B if things do not go according to one’s initial plan.  He made an impactful point about the difference between one’s responsibility and one’s fault, and how understanding the contrast can make a big difference in life.

After Dr. Vlad wrapped his discussion, Chef Claudy Pierre took over.  Ironically, Chef Claudy’s family also hails from Haiti by way of New York City.  The odds of these two men converging in a room in downtown Pittsburgh to speak to young adults must be astronomical, but that’s part of the serendipitous magic of the CNX Mentorship Academy.

Chef Claudy has an outsized personality that exudes energy, passion, and excitement.  As founder of the EAT Initiative (covered in a prior blog post), Chef has developed and teaches a Knife Skills and Life Skills program, training students in the basics of the culinary arts. After completing the program, students receive a certification that allows them to work in the region’s high-end restaurants and hotels.

Under the direction of Chef, the students prepared lunch in the kitchen and then proceeded to enjoy the result of their efforts.  After about an hour of listening, watching, and performing in the industrial kitchen, several students developed an interest in following up with more extensive training this summer with Chef Claudy.

It was great spending the morning with the students.  It was awesome to do so in a setting as cool as the Energy Innovation Center.  And it was inspiring to watch Dr. Vlad and Chef Claudy do their thing.

The graduation ceremony for the first class of the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy is three weeks away.  Hard to believe the year went by this quickly.  But grateful to be a part of it.

So, the next time you are in a room and two guys named Dr. Vlad and Chef Claudy walk in, pay attention.  You will learn something.

For more information:

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.

A Flurry of Refining, Prepping, Planning, and Interviewing

Over the past month, senior students in the inaugural class of the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy have been meeting one-on-one with mentors at CNX Resources to accomplish two crucial objectives.

First, to define a preferred career path; in other words, answering the question of, “So, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Second, putting the finishing touches on the plan to land the desired job in the targeted profession:  finalizing impressive resumes, setting a schedule for the coming months tailored to the end goal, and practicing interviewing skills.

Much of the effort invested into the Academy since inception was designed to help students answer the first question of what career they want to pursue.  The numerous site visits to regional employers and trades, presentations by their staff, and hands-on experiences are now paying off.  Students have a greatly expanded awareness of regional careers that don’t require a four-year college degree and that pay family-sustaining wages (with the latter trait making an impression on students as to how, for many majors, college tuition runs the danger of a being a massive losing financial proposition).  Most importantly, students have gained a feel for which career paths interest them most…something this author wishes he would’ve had better awareness of at 18.

But knowing which career paths are preferred is only the first step.

Next comes the methodical process of drafting a resume, refining it, assessing gaps, closing those gaps with experiences and activities, and then finalizing the resume.  If you’ve followed this blog, you know the students have been diligently working on this.  That effort has paid off with resumes that don’t look just good; they look great.

And wouldn’t you know it?  The process of polishing that resume had an ancillary benefit of building up student confidence.  Which is a great ingredient for preparing for, and performing well in the job interview.  Seniors (soon to be high school graduates) have been meeting with mentors one-on-one, talking about what to expect in the interview, how to prepare, and how to leave the right impression.  I wish I could be in the room when these interviews occur, because I have a feeling the students are going to impress.

Many of the seniors have already begun their interviewing.  An impromptu job fair/mini-job shadow rotation was set up at CNX Resources’ main office when senior students made their recent visits, and future operational field site tours are being scheduled for those students who are interested in energy industry careers.

A point of pride was seeing the connection develop between the Mentorship Academy and day-to-day teams at CNX.  In early April 2022, the company now has a list of entry-level job positions that would be great fits for these students once they graduate high school (in less than 60 days!).

The business world speaks of ‘synergies’ all the time, usually to justify certain decisions while ultimately not realizing many of the promised synergies.  But with the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy and CNX Resources Corp., I am happy to report the hoped-for synergies between the two are going to materialize to the benefit of employees, the region, students, and shareholders.

That’s it for now.  This phase of the Academy effort will continue through to summer graduation and, frankly, through the careers of these students.  The tools being developed in the Academy program are for life, not just for this year.  And we start the same process in late April for the juniors in the Academy.  Stay tuned.

Please contact the Academy team at CNXMentorshipAcademy@cnx.com if you:

  • Are interested in interviewing one of our seniors for a job opening;
  • Would like to nominate a rising-senior student for the 2022-2023 CNX Mentorship Academy class; or,
  • Are interested in becoming a mentor or hosting a site visit for the 2022-2023 CNX Mentorship Academy class.
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.

Locking-In to Success with the Operating Engineers

Young men and women from the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy attended a day of instruction and hands-on experience at the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program facility in New Alexandria, PA.  The site is anchored by a massive 33,000-square-foot training facility equipped with classrooms and shops, as well as an outdoor complex where budding operating engineers can practice on a full spectrum of heavy equipment ranging from cranes/hoists to earth-moving machinery such as backhoes and excavators.

The impressive facility and associated instruction are affiliated with Local 66 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which covers most of western Pennsylvania and parts of eastern Ohio.

Local 66’s Marketing Representative Gary Breidegam kicked the day off with a presentation covering what operating engineers do, the training path to becoming a journeyman, and what it’s like working in the trade. Of course, like many of the building trades, the pay and benefits are excellent. The presentation’s combination of formal slides but genuine discussion provided the students a great feel for what the path to becoming an operating engineer would look like.

Next, it was time to head outside, navigate through some mud, and take a turn at operating a crane and an excavator.

We’ve noted this before in prior blog posts but it’s worth repeating: there is nothing that beats a hands-on experience to convey to a prospective worker what it’s like to be a professional in the specific field. The trainers at the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship & Training Program facility proved this universal truth once again. The excitement of the students was visible to say the least. As a bonus, they gained an experience that few other high school students can boast (we will be adding it to the resume, for sure).

A career in this field has an added, hidden advantage not understood until you sit in the seat of the machine. As one student put it, “I was having a bad week and was in a bad mood at the start of the day today. But when I got in that cab and started to focus on operating the excavator, I forgot all about the outside world and got locked-in to what I was doing. A job like this would be exciting.”

Meaningful work, great wages, and a therapeutic work environment. What more could you ask for in a career? Visit: https://www.wpaoperators.org/ to learn more about the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers.

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.