The Marin City Community Development Corporation (MCCDC) this spring launched the Green Energy Empowerment program, a training initiative designed to help underserved residents find employment in green-collar jobs. The first phase of the project is a comprehensive effort to free 100 target families and dozens of at-risk youth in Marin City from the cycle of poverty though career development, skills training, and job placement in the clean energy field.
“The goal of our program is for participants to find jobs in the green-collar sector with opportunities for advancement and further training,” said MCCDC executive director Makini Hassan.
The MCCDC works with adults from participating families for up to five years and track their progress toward achieving self-sufficiency wages in the green-collar industry. The training series begins with a two-week classroom experience focused primarily on work maturity and job readiness skills. The classroom component also provides participants with a background in the renewable energy field intended to convey a sense of the larger meaning of their work.
Upon completing the classroom portion, trainees will move on to occupation-specific training. Participants whose interests and aptitudes align with a career in the solar industry will participate in an occupational-skills seminar with either GRID Alternatives or GreenLeaf Solar. Those more likely to thrive in a career in energy auditing or home weatherization will be mentored by PG&E or the Marin Builders Association.
Participants are then connected with a paid on-the-job training experience at one of 21 affiliated business and organizations. During the pilot phase of the project, which lasted from last fall to this spring, the 47 graduates trained with a diverse cross-section of businesses, including SPG Solar, Sun First Energy Systems, Real Good Solar, PJ Nelson Marine Services, and Whole Foods. Although these on-the-job training experiences do not result in official certificates or professional licenses, companies typically write a recommendation for the trainee that carries significant weight with future employers.
Trainees are considered ready to search for full-time employment after they have completed their on-the-job training. To connect graduates with entry-level jobs, MCCDC recently partnered with a green staffing company with established relationships with local green-collar employers. For those seeking advanced training or professional certification as a solar installer, the MCCDC has established a referral program with the nearby College of Marin’s Solar Technician Training Program. The MCCDC is also working diligently to establish apprenticeship opportunities for their graduates with local construction trade organizations.
“The vision for Green Energy Empowerment is to provide skills training aligned with industry needs that prepares residents for entry employment with pathways for middle class careers,” said Ms. Hassan. “We want to link with union apprenticeships, with vibrant community college certification programs, and with built-in opportunities in Marin City to provide lasting, well-paying jobs for our graduates.”
William Greene is one of the individuals to participate in the MCCDC’s pilot program this past year. In early 2008, William lost his job of seven years after falling victim to the wave of layoffs sweeping the construction industry. A single parent of one son, William needed to find a job quickly in order to support his family.
In July 2008, William signed up for the training workshop, which was (and still is) offered free-of-charge through funding from the Marin Community Foundation, Citibank Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, PG&E, and the Marin County Board of Supervisors. The MCCDC was also able to subsidize William’s transportation to-and-from work and secure childcare for his son while he worked.
Shortly after graduating the program, William was interviewed and hired by Bayside Solutions to work on a residential solar installation in Tiburon, CA. Since then, William has been working as a solar installer on a contract basis with SPG Solar and Real Good Solar, and his wage has steadily increased along with his experience, from $18/hr to as much as $31/hr. William is now taking classes at the College of Marin to expand his knowledge of solar science and obtain certification as an industry-recognized installer.
“William is truly a success story,” said Ms. Hassan.
Plans For The Future
The Green Energy Empowerment program is likely to produce many more stories like William’s, especially in light of the additional federal funding they expect to receive as a result of the government’s embrace of clean energy. The MCCDC has already received some new funding this year from the Workforce Investment Act for use in their youth training initiatives. The County of Marin has also applied for stimulus money made available through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program and the State Energy Program. If these funds come through, the MCCDC will likely be a beneficiary.
With the expected influx of money, the MCCDC will hire the additional teachers and staff members needed to keep up with demand for their program (the waitlist currently exceeds 80 people). With added capacity, the Green Energy Empowerment program will be able to touch more lives and develop a built-in army of green collar workers should Marin City choose to invest in a citywide weatherization initiative.
The MCCDC has also recently embarked on an innovative microenterprise initiative with noted social entrepreneur Gunther Pauli. The program is aimed at helping Marin City residents develop their own green small business in fields as diverse as sustainable agriculture and solar panel maintenance and repair. This green microenterprise initiative will open opportunities for residents more interested in owning their own business than participating in training or apprenticeship programs.
With the launch of Green Energy Empowerment this month, Marin City appears poised to assume a vanguard role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy, good jobs, equal opportunity economy.
“Green Energy Empowerment is a program that is great for the community in every way,” said Ms. Hassan. “Not only are we engaged in job creation through a social enterprise model, we are training workers to have a positive impact on society through environmental protection.”
Derek Fletcher was an intern based in the Apollo Alliance’s San Francisco office.