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Meet Some Solar One Green Workforce Trainees: ReNEW!

Now in its fourth year, Solar One’s Green Workforce Training Program has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of men and women who have completed trainings. We spent a day back in October at the Lab in Long Island City, meeting trainees from STRIVE International and Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) and learning about their experiences in the Solar One program. These are stories from the ReNEW trainees (we’ll add the STRIVE ones next week). Unfortunately we didn’t get pictures, but their words say a lot:

ReNEW is a free 6-week pre-apprenticeship program that highlights green collar jobs and is designed to give women insight into sustainable careers and perspective on current and upcoming opportunities in New York City.

Latanya: A friend of mine completed the ReNEW program, she learned how to be a carpenter. I have a bachelor’s degree from BMCC, but even with that, I was having trouble making progress in a career. I’m very much of a girly girl, but I look forward to bringing that aspect of myself to the job! I think it’s really important to make it clear that these types of jobs are only suitable for me. The program is quite difficult, but you get a lot of support.

I’m really glad to get to do the training with Solar One- I really enjoy the technical aspects of it: measuring air quality, understanding the effects of air pressure on the building, the details of how everything works and how straight forward it is. I’m not good at math, but this math I can do. It gives me confidence, that I can do it. I’d really like to work in water management, maybe at the DEP. I’ve been out of work since February, and now I feel I can go out and get another job, that I have a lot more to offer. More than anything, I just want to keep on learning!

Senora Williams: I came here from the corporate world (I have a degree in business administration) andalso teach fitness for the Dept of Parks & Recreation. I got laid off from my day job in April and I’m the oldest one in the group. I’ve always been very handy and I like to do home improvement projects with skills I’ve picked up from home repair shows on TV- I’m currently redesigning my closet, and I’ve always had a tendency to choose recycled materials for my home projects. One of my fitness students told me about this program. I’d never really consider turning what I thought of my hobby into a career, but getting laid off made me reconsider my options. The ReNEW program really helped me gain an understanding of what “green” really means.

The Solar One instructors are great! I also really appreciated all the detail in the training and gaining access to actual solar panels. It’s so important to link the hands-on with the theory behind it- there’s a lot of math involved. I would love to get an apprenticeship so I can continue to build skills. I want to show that women can get both feet on the ground and be successful, even in professions like these. What attracted me to the environmental aspects of the program is that I think it’s very important to know the green jobs are out there, and to deeply understand what that really means, beyond just things like recycling.

Kiersten: I heard about the ReNEW program through HRA after getting laid off. I’ve been trying to get into improving the environment, but never knew it could e a career path. When they told us about Solar One, I was very excited, because one of the things I was most interested in was learning solar PV installation. I’ve learned a lot, particularly applied math. I’d love to be able to take more trainings, but I really have to get a job, after being unemployed for four months.

Izetta Dublin: My son’s father is in the construction union, and he told me about the ReNEW program. I grew up with carpentry all my life, but here we’re really using the math we learned in high school! I thought I just wanted to do carpentry, but as soon as I heard about weatherization, I thought, that’s for me! I also really enjoy learning about different aspects of sustainability, like materials sourcing. James teaches slowly and methodically, taking us through all the steps. Even though there’s a lot of material, it’s all really sticking with me. I’m just excited, this is so overwhelming for me that I can be such a sponge for all this stuff.

Allison Campbell: My first career was in fashion. I had started out doing fashion production for a small family-owned business, and then for a French company. I was good at my job, and so the company was sold and after the 2008 recession, I got laid off. I freelanced for a while after that, but there just wasn’t enough work. I’m also a holistic health counselor, and increasingly I found myself giving clients advice about making their homes healthier as well, like telling people about low VOC paints and things like that. I was also doing a lot of volunteer work with Grow NYC and especially spreading the word about their EBT program [where the Greenmarkets are able to accept food stamps]. So I was doing all these things and at the same time, getting more and more requests from people for help in their homes. And more and more people were asking about solar panels. And while there was a lot of available information about WIPP [the federal Weatherization Innovations Pilot Program], there was a lot less about solar, and I was especially hard for my elderly neighbors in Dyker Heights to understand the various incentives and programs, but they really wanted to know more about it.

So a group of my volunteers friends and I built our own solar panel using information we got from a YouTube video. We bought some solar cells online and went to the local hardware store for the rest of our supplies. We hooked out panel up to car battery, and it worked! I really enjoyed the whole project, and wanted to become better educated on the subject to help spread the word about a solar future. And then I heard about the NEW program from a woman who’s now an engineer for the MTA, working on the tracks. Hearing about her experience really motivated me, and that’s how I got here.

Solar One has been really inspiring. If “2007 me” could see me now, I think she’d be amazed to see me doing this! In 2007, I was a vegetarian because I was disgusted with the meat industry. Now I’m a vegetarian because I’m an activist. I’m excited to take all my experience and skills and be an eco-pioneer to save the world!