Derek Coleman started working at We Energies when he was in high school. He started as an intern and is now a designer with the company, where he spends his days figuring out how to safely and reliably bring energy to homes and businesses.

“This experience has changed my life,” Coleman says. Coleman is one of the 16 (and counting) Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) alumni who has a full-time career with We Energies after completing a one-of-a-kind internship between the company and MPS.

This summer, he spoke to a room full of MPS principals, vice principals and career champions to explain why more students should consider a career in energy.

Coleman says he couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.

“It kept me out of trouble. When I was out of school, I had to go straight to my job, I had money in my pocket. It was life-changing.”

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson enthusiastically gave his support to the innovative program.

“A four-year degree may not be for everyone, and a career in the trades is an excellent alternative. A career path that can be financially, as well as professionally rewarding,” Johnson said.

MPS students accepted into the We Energies internship program spend two years getting hands-on experience with the tools and equipment that line mechanics, gas distribution workers and designers use on a daily basis. In addition to earning a paycheck, interns are paired with an employee who acts as a life mentor.

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman praised the partnership as a promising alternative for Milwaukee’s youth.

“It gives a young mind hope, it gives them something to work towards. A skill that’s transferable to adulthood. A living wage-type of profession,” Norman said.

We Energies employees will be visiting MPS high schools this fall to share more information about the programs and how to apply.