WASHINGTON — Veterans will see more energy job openings in the coming years thanks to the new Troops to Energy Jobs initiative.

The public-private partnership, officially launched on Monday, is an effort to develop an accelerated process for bringing returning military veterans into the energy industry workforce, which is expected to experience a hiring boom because of retirements.

Led by the Center for Energy Workforce Development and five electric and natural gas utility companies – Dominion, American Electric Power, Southern Co., Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and Arizona Public Service Co. – the program is currently in a pilot stage to find the best practices to be used across the board in the next 18 months.

Tom Farrell, the chairman, president and CEO of Dominion, based in Virginia, said the training military service members receive makes them a valuable resource for the energy sector in both blue and white color jobs.

“We need pipefitters, we need welders, we need linemen and line women,” Farrell said. “We need nuclear operators. We need all of them.”

CEWD estimates that the U.S. energy workforce will decrease by roughly 40 percent over the next five years due to retirement and attrition. The initative aims to create a clear system to unite returning, skilled veterans with  those openings.

“To make sure that veterans have a clear path to energy industry jobs, we’re going to providing coaching, assessments, mentoring and ways to accelerate their education,” CEWD Chairman Bob Powers said.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu called the program an opportunity, both for the industry and the veterans involved.

“We need a new generation of workers to fill critical positions,” Chu said, adding that veterans have “the experience and skills suited for energy jobs.”

“Since this is our inaugural year, this is about improving our veterans’ recruitment capability as a whole,” said Anthony Herrera, a retired Marine sergeant who is an executive recruiter for Arizona Public Service.

In  coming years Herrera said he hopes Troops to Energy Jobs will expand to work with the Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation program, a service Herrera participated in.

Former Petty Officer 1st Class Deon Clark works in recruiting at APS with Herrerra. Clark was a nuclear operator during his time with the Navy, which helped his transition to the energy industry.

“There is a lot of synergy between the work the veterans are doing now and the work APS does,” Clark said.

“Goodwill is not enough,” Farrell cautioned. “We owe our troops a debt of gratitude that must translate into something more useful and meaningful than a mere ‘thank you.’”