Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is opening a new regional learning center to train future utility workers, expanding its current training center into the SMUD Power Academy that will open early next year.

The training center will give SMUD an opportunity to connect with potential employees locally, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. SMUD will coordinate learning opportunities through local colleges.

"Building on SMUD's recognized ability to turn out some of the best-trained utility workers in the industry, we plan to work closely with other utilities, IBEW, the California Department of Industrial Relations, the Building Industry Association and local community colleges, universities and high schools to make SMUD Power Academy the premier utility training center on the West Coast," said SMUD CEO and GM Arlen Orchard. "I'm very excited about the growth of the facility as it migrates from SMUD-specific to a resource to benefit our industry and region."

The California Department of Industrial Relations recently approved SMUD's apprenticeship standards. A celebratory signing event was held on Nov. 6 at the site in southeast Sacramento County. The signing coincided with the inaugural National Apprenticeship Week. SMUD is the first large-scale Northern California utility to partner with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards.

The academy will support development of a skilled labor force for SMUD and other utilities across the West. SMUD and the utility industry see a definite need for a premier training center that can develop the best talent using the proven training approach SMUD has been using to produce some of the best utility workers in the country. SMUD's lineworkers consistently win top awards in lineworkers' rodeo competitions, like the APPA Lineworkers Rodeo SMUD held last summer at Gibson Ranch.

In addition to lineworkers, the center will develop substation and network electricians, cable splicers and locators, electrical technicians, telecom technicians, meter technicians, designers, engineers, construction management inspectors, vehicle and equipment operators, and support staff.

SMUD Power Academy's initial emphasis will be for public power utilities like SMUD, which are owned by their customers. There are about 2,000 such entities in the U.S. and most do not have the resources to adequately and safely train their employees to be the best. SMUD has been training employees at the current facility for about 50 years.