A hands-on workforce training pilot program launched by Xcel Energy to improve workforce diversity in Minnesota’s energy sector construction efforts was approved last week by the Commission Minnesota utilities.
Designed as a pathway for 150 participants, the program will provide training and hands-on experience. The latter will likely take the form of labor on the proposed 460MW Sherco solar project, although this currently remains under separate review for a construction site and road permits. As proposed by Xcel, Sherco – and two 345 kV transmission lines for the interconnection – would tie into the Sherburne County substation and replace the power generation of unit 2 of the Sherco power station fed from the coal, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2023.
“The Commission brought together stakeholders in 2019 to consider the challenges and opportunities for attracting a diverse workforce and submitted recommendations to the legislature,” Commissioner Valerie Means said. “The pilot the Commission approved today reflects many of the recommendations set out in the report and is hopefully indicative of the future efforts we will see towards more inclusive training and hiring practices.”
An important objective of Project Sherco will include outreach to community organizations and targeted recruitment of low-income communities, veterans, women and BIPOCs – all groups traditionally underrepresented in the energy and construction industries. It also facilitates requests made to the Commission by the Minnesota Legislature, which required it to take a closer look at attracting a diverse workforce to the energy industry.