Energy/Utilities Training Helps Unemployed Residents Land Jobs


Sector poised for growth, hiring

As part of his training at Northeast Utilities, Dave Barbagallo uses a hydraulic machine to fuse two pieces of gas pipeline together.

After 15 years in the home improvement business, David Barbagallo found himself unemployed. The 44-year-old Kensington father of two had a college degree, plus extensive experience in retail sales, construction, management, training, and installation.

But construction and retail were struggling: not hiring.

“It was time for a career change,” he said. “Real estate and construction are cyclical and heavily affected by economic fluctuations. I wanted to move into a field like energy or technology, something that would provide new growth opportunities and advancement.”

Barbagallo signed up for career training he had heard about through the Hartford Jobs Funnel. Academic Skills Enhancement for Energy-Related Careers is a six-week program that prepares unemployed and underemployed adults for entry-level work in fast-growing industries. Training was coordinated by CBIA’s Education Foundation and made possible by a grant from the Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford.

In April, 20 students completed this first portion of training, which focused on critical thinking, math, and applied technology skills and prepared them for pre-employment aptitude tests and the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, or NCRC. (The NCRC is a portable, stackable credential identified by the Center for Energy Workforce Development as the entry-level standard for the energy industry.)

Full-day classes were held Monday through Friday at the Capitol Region Education Council in Hartford.

Thirteen of the students who earned their certificates were selected to take part in an intensive utilities training program at Northeast Utilities, followed by classes at New England Tractor Trailer Training School, where they earned their commercial driver’s license (CDL B). In all, the program spanned 16 weeks, ending in mid-summer. A new session is currently under way, and another begins next spring.

Ten Hired, More Being Trained

Now a construction manager for a global telecom company in Connecticut, Barbagallo manages subcontractors, maintains vehicles and equipment, and oversees daily operations for cell tower upgrades and other projects. His income has nearly tripled over his last job.

“I couldn’t have made this major career change without this training,” he said. “I gained the confidence and credentials to show my prospective employer I was a good fit. Once I learn the technical side of this business, my employer believes my other skills will have a greater impact on my success in this job. So the learning curve is not too big.”

As of press time, 10 students who completed the first session of training had secured jobs as utility locators, construction managers, environmental helpers,

Derrick Bailey, who completed entry-level energy workforce training this summer, was hired as an environmental helper for a Connecticut drilling and testing company.

and technicians, with an average salary of $41,000.

“These men are just the first of their class to find jobs,” says CBIA’s Deb Presbie, who coordinates energy/utilities workforce training under the Workforce Solutions grant. “The remaining participants are still interviewing for jobs or pursuing further education.”

“I would recommend this program,” says Barbagallo. “It’s a good start to finding the skills and opportunities that lead to long-term career changes. My new job in a technology/utility-type field is always evolving and growing.”

Indeed, companies like his are seeing an increasing number of open positions, says Judith Resnick, executive director of CBIA’s Education Foundation. “Baby boomers have started to retire at the same time innovations and system upgrades are setting the energy/utility sector up for growth.”

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer and editor at CBIA. She can be reached at For updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs, click here.

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