FirstEnergy partners with Stark State and UA to offer on-site higher learning for customer service employees


FirstEnergy Corp. has developed a new education program in conjunction with Stark State College and The University of Akron where instructors from both educational institutions will teach on-site at company facilities in the Akron area. Known as “Educate to Elevate,” the program is designed to assist FirstEnergy’s local customer service employees in pursuing associate and bachelor’s degrees.

The goal of Educate to Elevate is to help develop a highly skilled workforce that is adaptable and ready for the future. In addition, FirstEnergy employees can take charge of their own career and personal development by enrolling in secondary educational programs that could lead to advancement opportunities within the company.


Representatives from UA answer questions from FirstEnergy employees during an Educate to Elevate Open House Oct. 29.

Educate to Elevate had its beginnings in February when several FirstEnergy senior leaders had discussions with representatives of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) about making it easier for employees to attend college by bringing the college to them. As part of this process, NOCHE helped develop the initial program concept and served as a liaison with Stark State College and The University of Akron.

“Through focus groups with customer service employees, we found people are interested in starting or going back to college, but the logistical challenges of getting to class on a campus are quite daunting,” said Gary Grant, vice president, Customer Service, FirstEnergy. “By working with NOCHE, Stark State College and The University of Akron, we realized we could solve potential scheduling and transportation problems by bringing professors and instructors directly to our facilities to teach after our regular workday ends. This is a ‘win-win’ situation, where employees can earn degrees and FirstEnergy builds a more knowledgeable, career-minded workforce.”


Dr. Lada Gibson-Shreve, left, provost, Stark State College; Gary Grant, vice president, Customer Service, FirstEnergy; and Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy, dean of UA's College of Applied Science and Technology, were all on hand for FirstEnergy's Educate to Elevate Open House Oct. 29.

“Educate to Elevate aligns with our community’s Elevate Greater Akron plan to provide educational and career pathways to advance the lives of residents and ensure local companies have a well-educated and technically proficient workforce,” said Stark State College President Dr. Para M. Jones. “Educate to Elevate is an excellent example of a company investing in its own people and growing its own talent. We are very proud to partner with FirstEnergy on this innovative new program.”

“Education is empowering, and The University of Akron is always pleased to partner with local companies like FirstEnergy to find solutions to their workforce needs,” said Gary L. Miller, president of The University of Akron. “FirstEnergy employees who complete the program will be instructed by extraordinarily talented faculty and will open themselves up to increased knowledge and ways to better do business. We are honored that the education they receive through UA will positively impact their lives and their futures.”

Program rollout starts in November

Representatives from Stark State College and UA will be meeting with interested FirstEnergy employees in November to review enrollment requirements, course of study options and financial aid availability. The goal is to have employees ready for classes that begin in January. The program features accelerated, eight-week courses along with flexible hours, including evenings, and online learning.

Grant says if Educate to Elevate proves successful in Akron, it could be rolled out to other FirstEnergy call centers in Reading, Pa., and Fairmont, W.V., or offered to other FirstEnergy business units in Ohio.

FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) is dedicated to safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company's transmission subsidiaries operate 24,500 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy online or on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or cboyd