Seven months ago, Keith Baker of Irvington logged onto PSE&G’s website to pay his monthly electric bill, and clicked on the “Careers” button out of curiosity. Today, Baker is a full-time street mechanic – part of the growing PSE&G team replacing more than 500 miles of aging gas pipes throughout New Jersey. “I was looking for a new challenge for myself, a new skill,” said Baker, who previously worked as a plumber. PSE&G has always had a reputation for providing steady jobs with strong pay and benefits, he added.
Kyle Gaughan of Hainesport was repairing air conditioners when a friend told him PSE&G was hiring workers with his experience. Today, he is training to maintain gas systems as a service apprentice.
Matt O’Brien of Toms River was a concrete foreman, repairing homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Now a utility PSE&G mechanic apprentice, the 33-year-old U.S. Navy veteran is looking forward to a more secure future. “Now I have a career,” O’Brien said.
Keith, Kyle and Matt have benefited from the more than 500 jobs being created by PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program, a $905 million investment in the utility’s network of underground gas lines. The program is replacing 510 miles of old cast-iron and unprotected steel gas mains with new plastic pipes, plus 38,000 service lines to homes and businesses in 11 New Jersey counties. The infrastructure upgrades are an important part of the utility’s mission to bring safe, clean, reliable energy to nearly 2.5 million New Jersey customers.
Equally important is the program’s contribution to the economy: Creation of approximately 500 direct, sustained jobs. This year alone, PSE&G has hired 144 new, full-time employees for entry-level jobs, as well as supervisors and project managers. It also means jobs for outside contractors and suppliers.
“We’re providing good, full-time, blue-collar jobs with benefits for hundreds of people,” said Joseph Forline, PSE&G vice president for gas operations.
The expanding workforce is good for PSE&G and its customers, said Michael Gaffney, senior director of gas distribution field construction and head of the Gas System Modernization Program.
“A chance to grow our workforce is exciting for the company and its employees,” Gaffney said.
Just ask the new employees:
“It’s a real family atmosphere,” said O’Brien, who joined PSE&G just two months ago. “It’s where I plan to be in 10, 15, 20 years.”
Baker appreciates the stability of his new job.
“It’s made my life more comfortable, to have that kind of financial security,” he said. “I’ve only been here for seven months, but I believe this is a great company to work for. I work with great guys. We’re a great team.”
The gas main replacement effort is a practical program at a critical time. Here’s why:
- PSE&G has been serving customers for more than 113 years; some of its infrastructure is more than a century old and in need of an upgrade;
- Replacing old pipes is good for customers and the environment. Cast-iron and steel can become brittle with age, and leaks can disrupt service and release greenhouse gases;
- Natural gas prices are at historic lows. Investing in infrastructure now, when customers are less likely to feel the pinch, makes sense.
However, as we mark Labor Day 2016, the focus belongs on hundreds of middle-class, blue-collar jobs the program has created. Long-term job-creation is one of the most important reasons PSE&G will ask the state Board of Public Utilities to approve an extension of the program beyond the original three years.
After all, PSE&G’s gas system has 4,000 miles of cast-iron pipes and another 1,000 miles of unprotected steel – the most of any utility in the U.S.
“These aren’t short-term jobs,” Forline said. “At the current pace, there’s 30 years of modernization work to be done.”
The PSE&G modernization program is helping to make New Jersey’s gas system safer, more reliable and environmentally friendly, and it’s a job-creation engine for the entire state, said Bud Thoman, president and business manager of IBEW Local 94, which represents approximately 500 members working in gas distribution and appliance service for PSE&G.
“These projects not only supply work for our members; they also create hundreds of jobs for others,” Thoman said. “These modernization jobs are good quality, skilled jobs.”
Neil Wojceichowski, business manager and financial secretary of UA 855, said PSE&G’s program will mean a more secure future for his union’s nearly 1,500 members.
“This type of work is going to create stability and, if PSE&G is successful in extending the program, it’s going to give us a work plan of five to 10 years, or longer,” Wojceichowski said. “You can’t ask for any more of a commitment than that.”
“It’s a nice way to celebrate Labor Day,” he said.
“If you want to work and be treated well, I recommend this job to anyone.”
Keith Baker, 38, Irvington
Street Mechanic, Summit Gas
IBEW Local 94
To see if there is a job for you at PSEG, go to www.pseg.com/careers.