Chicago Public School students from Westinghouse College Prep High School toured the new Peoples Energy Training Center in Little Village for a first-hand look at a career in engineering.
The 100,000-square-foot training center, 4228 W. 35th Pl., is used by Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas to train employees using real-world simulations – including a miniature neighborhood with active gas lines. The center also welcomes high school students occasionally to expose them to future jobs with the two utility companies.
The 17 students who visited Tuesday ranged from sophomores to seniors. All are in the rigorous Paschen Scholars Program, an initiative to build the next generation of engineers.
An estimated 140,000 new engineering jobs will be created across the country from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median engineering salary in 2016 was $91,010, according to the bureau.
In 2015, Chicago construction firm F.H. Paschen partnered with Westinghouse College Prep to develop a curriculum exposing students to a range of engineering fields. It starts recruiting students as freshman; if accepted, students take advanced-level math and engineering courses.
Ryan Kinney, a Westinghouse counselor, said students in the program often take summer courses and do internships with F.H. Paschen before graduating.
“The hope is that, if they do decide to be engineers, they’re not only going to be exposed to what they want to do, they will be prepared to be leaders within the classroom and the field,” Kinney said.
Kinney said many of his students would be the first high school graduates in their families — like Delia Hernandez, 15.
“That will be a good experience for my family,” said Hernandez, a sophomore. “I don’t know what kind of engineering I want to do yet, but the experience has been very nice. I’ve never been exposed to any of this in my entire life.”
Hernandez hopes to pursue a career that is math and science-based.
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.