My Pathway to the Energy Industry

College & Career Readiness, Current Events & News, High School Success | 10/30/2018

Shane Acree
Energy Industry Professional

I don’t know about you, but when I was a junior in high school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do for a career. I was focused on my classes and graduating – not really focused on what I would do for a living.

Growing up in southern Illinois, a lot of my classmates did know what they wanted: many were headed to the farm or the factory after we finished high school. But those jobs weren’t for me.

What did interest me was a program I heard about from a family friend, one at the local community college that focused on Power Plant Technology. That sparked my interest, and the more I learned about it, the more I was interested. As it turns out, the program was created by members of the local business community when they saw too few students pursuing careers in Illinois’ energy sector.

Working professionals taught these classes I joined, folks who were involved in the industry and gave us the skills we would need as a power plant technician. Not only that, but working with a career guide as part of the program, I was able to build my resume and find internships to get even more experience.

During my first summer break, I landed a paid internship at one of Illinois’ biggest energy companies. This gave me hands-on experience in the industry I loved, all while still pursuing my degree. This helped set me up well, because once I finished the program and graduated, I had an associate’s degree and a job offer.

After working in the energy sector for a few years, my employer noted a program where the company offered to pay for me to complete my bachelor’s degree in the field. Even better, the program was structured in a way that, depending on how I did in the classroom, I could graduate with minimal college debt. I jumped at that opportunity, pushed myself in all my classes, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and almost no debt.

This has been a wild ride since I heard about the program in high school, but I wouldn’t change any of it. These opportunities led me to a great education and my full-time job in our state’s booming energy industry. And for those who are interested, my company is still hiring.

Read more about career pathways in Stand’s recent “Stop Illinois Brain Drain” report.

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