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21 and hungry for more

Tech school partnership leads to lifelong opportunity

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Derron Cook has that twinkle in his eye. That slight glimmer that, in a game of poker, would be his ultimate tell. Even with his ever-present smile, easy conversation and laid-back posture, that look—that tell—says there’s more to this guy than meets the eye. Derron Cook is driven.  

Fresh out of Spire’s partnership program with North Technical High School in St. Louis, Derron was hired as a service technician just five months after graduation.

“My first day on the job, another service tech asked, ‘How old are you?’ I told him I was 18. He laughed and said, ‘The young guys can’t usually handle the responsibility.’” Derron leans back, crosses his arms and gives a satisfied smile. “Four years later, I’m still here, and we’re good friends.”

This is Derron. His greatest pride is his work ethic—one that was instilled in him from a young age.  

“I probably had an advantage. My dad went to technical high school and works for Spire, so I already knew that if I took school seriously and worked hard, I could have a good life.”

For Mara Proost, a talent acquisition lead for Spire, this is the message she hopes students take away from Spire’s partnership with North and South Technical High Schools.

“Opportunity is everything. We’re providing exposure and inspiration to students by showing them the kind of career and life they can have. In turn, we’re building a strong workforce by making connections with great students. It’s a true win-win.”

At North and South Tech, students with qualifying grades can choose to participate in Spire’s unpaid program where they receive hands-on training in everything from welding and construction to heating and cooling. Students also go on site visits, observing Spire crews in action.

In addition, Spire’s Human Resources team helps students create resumes and cover letters, and practice interviewing for jobs. 

“When I applied at Spire for a job, I was prepared,” Derron said. “By the time I got to my panel interview, I had practiced so many times, I wasn’t even nervous.”

Since its launch in 2012, Spire has worked with more than 140 students at North Tech, and with the program’s expansion to South Tech in 2018, Mara hopes more students gain exposure to all Spire has to offer. 

“I had a student come up and say, ‘I had no idea I had so many options for a future career.’ And that’s exactly the reaction we strive for,” Mara said.

From Derron’s perspective, the importance of the program can’t be overstated.   

“When I applied at Spire for a job, I was prepared,” Derron said. “By the time I got to my panel interview, I had practiced so many times, I wasn’t even nervous.”

Four years into his career, he says he loves what he does and the company he does it for.

“The best part of my job is meeting new people. And I really like that leadership encourages us to go above and beyond. Where I work, there are a lot of single moms. I always ask if they need help with anything before I go,” Derron pauses, then breaks into his signature grin, “Basically, I end up taking out a lot of garbage for them.”

Derron, who will be 22 this year, is well into a successful career and he plans to keep growing.    

“When I first started, my goal was to learn everything I could. Now, my goal is to lead others. I’m here for good.”

Though he says he wouldn’t change a thing about his career path, he does have one regret from his days at North Tech.

“I wish I could go back and tell the other kids to take their classes seriously. Because the life they dreamed of—it’s real. You just have to work for it.”