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Pepco Celebrates Infrastructure Academy Graduates

Throughout the month of February, Pepco’s Edison Place Gallery in northwest D.C. will showcase a multimedia exhibit that celebrates and highlights the stories of the nearly two dozen people who graduated last spring from Pepco’s newly launched utility training program.

Many of these honorees, including Jabriel Ingram of Northeast, have since gone on to work for Pepco. In his role as an apprentice line mechanic secondary, Ingram installs and maintains electrical lines throughout the District. For him, the potential for growth within his industry counts as the most enticing part of this experience.

“[We didn’t] let the fear of failure be more than the excitement of winning,” said Ingram, 25, a graduate of the D.C. Infrastructure Academy Pepco Utility Training program.

After failing an entrance exam in 2018, Ingram successfully entered the program last year and, after taking coursework and a couple of exams, rose to the status of a lineman within a matter of months.

Jabriel Ingram, a line mechanic-overhead apprentice (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Jabriel Ingram, a line mechanic-overhead apprentice (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

“[I would like to] become a journeyman and prolong my [time] here at Pepco,” said Ingram, a former college football defensive end. “The biggest thing is learning. You have to learn each and every day. I’m in a trade that’s like a four-year college degree. I’ll be debt-free, and I have a job.”

During a private gathering at Pepco Edison Place Gallery on Thursday, Ingram introduced Reginald Cunningham II, the artist behind what’s known as “Life Beyond the Line,” the first of several art installations at 702 8th Street NW featuring everyday Washingtonians.

Throughout the gallery, life-sized portraits plastered on the walls show nine of the infrastructure academy graduates at their happiest and most comfortable. On accompanying audio clips, the people featured describe the significance of their career milestone.

Cunningham, a photographer from St. Louis who lives in the District, explained a strategy that involved engaging his subjects in conversation as he snapped their photos. He said his goal with this project involved bridging the gap between what he described as separate societies within the District, and highlighting the longtime closure of technical and vocational schools.

“It was about being able to expose corporate D.C. to the stories of people who live in D.C., to amplify these stories and celebrate these wonderful people doing amazing things,” Cunningham, creator of the Pure Black brand, told The Informer. “It was about] filling a gap that technical schools are leaving, and showing these men in an affirming way that they’re proud and happy with what brings them joy. I’m excited and thankful for being able to celebrate.”

As the national student loan debt amount enters the trillions of dollars, and American society becomes more technological, more young people are embracing trades and certifications as a means of living a financially stable life. After a decline in vocational studies throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the trades have seen an enrollment surge of nearly 30 percent, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

To launch the D.C. Infrastructure Academy Pepco Utility Training program, Pepco and its parent company Exelon partnered with the Executive Office of the Mayor, the D.C. Department of Employment Services, and private sector entities.

The goal of this collaborative effort, as explained by Pepco leadership on the night of February 13, centers equipping D.C. residents with high-paying, sustainable job skills while developing a workforce that can maintain the city’s energy infrastructure.

Pepco graduated its first class in May; 22 graduates received jobs at Pepco or a Pepco contractor of choice. The second cohort, which started earlier in the month, has participants — whose ages range from 20 to 50 — hailing from Wards 6, 7 and 8, which include neighborhoods reeling from high unemployment.

Such was the case for Dervon Kyle, a Northeast resident and former construction worker who entered the infrastructure academy after suffering joblessness.

In the year since he’s enrolled in the program, Kyle has been promoted to the status of a Level C electrician. In his role, he often tends to power lines sprawling several feet underneath the D.C. streets.

“I see myself going to the top of my profession. By the end of this year, I would be a B-class,” said Kyle, 29. “I feel great about myself. This shows that I’m not a quitter and I hold myself to a higher standard so I wouldn’t let myself down. Everything has been going well. I’m making sure I’m making these sacrifices in my life.”

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