Training for solar industry jobs creating pathway out of poverty for many

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, July 1, 2022
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The solar industry already employs over 250,000 people, but the industry is also growing and with wages often above the national average, clean energy jobs are creating pathways out of poverty for many.

The solar industry already employs over 250,000 people, but the industry is also growing and with wages often above the national average, clean energy jobs are creating pathways out of poverty for many.

GRID Alternatives, a non-profit installer of clean energy technologies, is also a place to learn the skills for entry-level solar jobs.

"We're trying to get different people from different backgrounds to bring them into training where its 'Hey you can have a bright future in renewable energy, just come to this program, we'll pay you to learn solar'," said GRID training supervisor David Andrade.

GRID Alternatives provides free solar installation to income-qualified families in communities often underserved. Those same communities are where they find future employees like Rudy Curtis.

"I was nervous, I'm not gonna lie... I was nervous. Something I had no skills in, didn't know the language, didn't know the terminology and I just walked out in faith and I was just like you know what? Let me try it out and, to my surprise, I liked it," Curtis said.

People who have never heard of solar are still paid to learn the tools needed for a career in the industry instead of simply landing a job.

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"I come from a background that a lot of people wouldn't give me an opportunity in jobs. What GRID does, which I'm thankful for, is that they don't look at your past, they don't look at your mistakes they just look at you here and now and what you want to do and what you bring," Curtis added.

Unique Thomas is a new trainee with GRID.

"Everyone comes from different backgrounds from GRID which I've noticed, like there's... you name it they're there. So it's like a beautiful collaboration."

Thomas is a former film student who decided she wanted something different - something completely new. As the only woman currently on her team, she knows she's an example to others.

"In the beginning, cause it's so different and you're so unique, you're trying to prove yourself like, 'I'm a woman, I can lift the panels, guys. Move I got this' but you're like wait... we are a team and I love that GRID has made me feel very comfortable and very welcoming too."

The job training program is intentionally focused on creating opportunities for women, people of color and those impacted by the criminal justice system, providing hands-on installation training, while creating a workforce known for its high-level skill set.

"It's all over where we can find an untapped populous of individuals who are like me who can actually contribute by learning this and taking it back to their communities and help others make something better of themselves," Andrade said.