Energy company ComEd joined workforce partners and members of the community in December to celebrate the first graduating class of the 10-week Power Up Academy, a new career training program launched in partnership with local workforce agency Revolution Workshop to prepare job seekers for entry-level technical roles to support the clean energy transition in Illinois.

That transition is expected to create as many as 150,000 jobs in Illinois by 2050, according to research firm BW Research. Training through the Power Up Academy is designed to increase the pipeline of talent for in-demand technical roles that will be needed to support the power grid as well as boost the clean energy sector in Illinois—all without requiring a college degree.

“Programs like the Power Up Academy are ensuring more of our diverse communities from across northern Illinois are first in line for good paying jobs supporting the clean energy transition—those that will not only support a modern grid, but will make a lasting difference in creating cleaner futures for our communities,” said Louie Binswanger, senior vice president of governmental, regulatory and external affairs at ComEd.

The inaugural 15 graduates reflect the diversity of ComEd’s service territory. Nearly 90% of the trainees are people of color, and more than half are women.


Photos courtesy of ComEd

Over the course of the program, participants gained industry knowledge, spatial aptitude and skills working with AutoCAD, a computer-aided design (CAD) software that is a typical qualification for such entry-level technical roles supporting the grid as design tech, project coordinator, permitting analyst and more.

Through ComEd’s educational partner, the City Colleges of Chicago, participants also received the Certified Project Management Certificate, an industry-wide prerequisite test, putting them steps closer to career readiness for the energy fields.

“During the program, I gained certification in skills typically only available to college students such as AutoCAD, project management and financial literacy. I was even provided the opportunity to interview with engineering firms and was supported by ComEd and Revolution Workshop to make sure I was ready and confident to pass those interviews,” said Kala Wheeler, Power Up Academy graduate.

At the conclusion of the program, ComEd and corporate partners Burns & McDonnell, HBK Engineering, KDM Engineering, Milhouse, Primera Engineers and V3 held a job fair offering on-the-spot interviews to connect program participants to positions aligned with technical skill sets after graduation. ComEd and sponsoring companies are expected to extend employment offers to qualifying participants.

“The challenges ahead—whether it be climate change, technology advancements or work to support the rise in renewables—all call for innovation as well as the expansion of opportunities in what’s historically been a male-dominated field,” said Erin Imman, CEO of Primera Engineers, a local, woman-owned engineering firm.

The Power Up Academy is just one of ComEd’s investments to boost job training opportunities that connect local communities with roles in the growing clean energy sector, including the more than 150 new engineering roles ComEd plans to add in the next two years. Collectively, ComEd’s job training, apprenticeship and youth education programs reach 2,000 local residents each year.

Brinkmann Constructors, a full-service general contractor, in partnership with Dallas-based High Street Residential (Trammell Crow Co.), recently celebrated the topping out of a 253,000-sq-ft mixed-use development in Kirkwood, a western suburb of St. Louis. The James, a five-story development in the heart of downtown Kirkwood, includes 152 residential units, 285 parking spaces and 7,000 sq ft of retail space.

Designed to blend old-world charm with contemporary aesthetics, the James is the first large-scale apartment complex to be approved in Kirkwood’s downtown historic district in nearly two decades. The residential community will offer a variety of amenities, including a pool, courtyard, entertainment lounge, fitness center, pet spa, work-from-home space and coffee bar.

In addition, Brinkmann Constructors topped out First Bank’s 87,000-sq-ft headquarters and stand-alone parking garage in Creve Coeur, Mo., in December. Incorporating a variety of amenities designed to promote employee wellness and flexibility, the four-story building will feature multiple outdoor workspaces and a multipurpose “innovation hub” for team collaboration and social events. The project also includes a separate two-story, 82,000-sq-ft parking garage for both employee and visitor use. Brinkmann Constructors was founded in St. Louis in 1984 and has offices in Denver; Kansas City, Kan.; Richmond; and Phoenix.