Operational Excellence
May 6, 2024

‘This program changes lives’: Xcel Energy PowerUp Program graduates first cohort

Xcel Energy, DEED and partners train next generation of energy workers in Minnesota

On Friday, May 3, 2024, Xcel Energy and Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) joined to celebrate 61 new graduates of the Xcel Energy PowerUp Program. The 12-week program is a public and private partnership that prepares workers for careers in energy- and construction trades-related fields.  

Xcel Energy and DEED are working with seven community-based organizations to train and provide job placement for Minnesotans who are underrepresented in energy- and construction trades-related fields. The first cohort of graduates – trained this spring by Building Strong Communities graduated on Friday morning at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.  

“The PowerUp program is a reflection of Xcel Energy’s priorities and the communities we serve,” said Patricia Correa, Xcel Energy senior vice president and chief human resources officer. As we lead the clean energy transition, we need a skilled workforce to build the new generation and transmission infrastructure that’s required to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to our customers.” 

Xcel Energy has invested $4 million in the Xcel Energy PowerUp program with the goal of preparing 150 program participants to enter energy-related jobs or union apprenticeships by June 30, 2025. As a first step, Xcel Energy is providing the opportunity for participants to work with our contracted vendor on the Upper Midwest’s largest solar project, Sherco Solar, that is currently under construction near the Sherco coal plant in Becker, Minnesota. 

“This program changes lives,” said Building Strong Communities Executive Director Rick Martagon. “It provides people with the education and skills to make informed career choices that will benefit themselves and their families.” 

Wayne Blanks, who took part in the PowerUp program, is now an apprentice with the local boilermakers’ union. Blanks said the training provided him with many new skills – from using a measuring tape to coping skills. 


Wayne Blanks is a graduate of the PowerUp program


“This is huge for me. It’s a lot to take in,” he said. “I finally have a way to take care of my family. I’ve got insurance for my family. It’s empowerment. It’s absolutely empowerment.” 


He said he’s looking forward to continuing to learn now that the program has ended. 


“I look forward to excelling. I aspire to be a journeyman and open doors to others that want to come into the trades,” he said. 


Building Strong Communities serves as the provider of apprenticeship preparatory training for the Xcel Energy PowerUp Program and facilitates the direct placement of students into registered apprenticeships in construction trades. Community-based organizations play a vital role in recruitment, workforce readiness, and providing supportive services. This network includes Avivo, Career Solutions, Central Minnesota Jobs and Training, EMERGE Community Development, Native Sun Community Power Development and Summit Academy OIC. 


“We thank DEED and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for helping to shape the PowerUp program,” added Correa. We share the Commission’s goal to broaden participation in the energy transition. We believe a diverse workforce is a key element to deliver value in the way we conduct business, connect with our customers, and build relationships in our communities.”