Vets get free job training in solar industry

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. Julio Espino is a veteran of Desert Storm and the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. With the economy in a tailspin, Espino has been out of work. He has joined a handful of veterans who are getting free training for jobs in the solar industry.

"The economy hit me real hard. I lost my house. I lost a lot of things, almost everything except my life so I am grateful that this program is giving me a stepping stone to a new career path," said Espino.

A three-year federal grant is giving veterans an opportunity to get free job training as a part of the Green Jobs Program.

NexGen Construction, a Los Alamitos-based solar company, has teamed up with Solar Business Development of Huntington Beach to train up to 10 veterans at a time. The veterans are given a week's worth of intensive hands on training as solar installers.

NexGen President Eric Helgerson says he'll hire several of the veterans.

"I see heroes, I really do. I see heroes and they need to be greeted with a hero's welcome when they come back home," said Helgerson.

The state Employment Development Department statistics show California's unemployment rate hovers at around 12 percent. But for veterans in the state between the ages of 18 and 24, the unemployment rate is at 25 percent.

"Since I've come back it's been very tough not necessarily to get a job but to maintain them. There's definitely a lot of laying off," said veteran John Bleem, who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

He's hoping the free solar training will lead to a good job.

"I'm hoping to have the tools that I need to be able to step out there and get a job," said Bleem.

"With the economy being so bad, it's really been kind of tough so when somebody reaches out and offers this kind of training I didn't hesitate," said veteran James Johnson.

If you are a veteran interested in this training program, contact Rich Hessler Solar Sales Training at (949) 208-0221 or

Copyright © 2023 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.