GRID's first Illinois employee

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November 05, 2019

Frolian Nunez, Pooja Ravindran, Jeanine Otte, Eya Louis, Lace Bolling
From left to right: Frolian Nunez, Pooja Ravindran, Jeanine Otte, Eya Louis, Lace Bolling, the Elevate Energy team
I’m Pooja Ravindran, GRID’s Illinois Solar for All Workforce Program Manager. I started at GRID three months ago as the first on-the-ground Illinois employee, and I want to tell you a little bit about the work GRID has been doing here. Having spent the last several years in utility-scale solar development and witnessing the tangible benefits the solar industry brought to rural communities in North Carolina and the southeast, I was inspired to move to an organization that is intentional about connecting solar energy and environmental justice communities.

Since Illinois passed the groundbreaking Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) to make solar job training more accessible, we’ve been working in partnership with Elevate Energy to ensure the benefits of this legislation reach frontline communities in Illinois. GRID was brought on as part of the Illinois Solar For All Program Administrator team due to our long history of workforce development experience in California, DC and Colorado. The Midwest is poised to add a large percentage of the next 100GW of solar in the US over the next ten years, and it is important that it is done through a lense of equity and inclusivity of communities that shoulder the highest negative environmental impact. GRID aims to set this precedent for the region by fostering relationships between job training organizations and solar employers, assisting with solar curricula improvement, and showing the solar industry that it is beneficial for us all to invest in a strong and diverse local workforce.

On September 17th, GRID Alternatives, Elevate Energy and other community partners co-hosted our first large networking event to bring together job trainees, solar employers, legislators, and the larger community. It was inspiring to meet trainees who are energized by the growth potential in the Illinois’ solar market and are excited about solar as a potential career pathway. I look forward to the program’s success in this jobs creation endeavor.

In addition to my work on the program administration side, my coworkers at GRID on the workforce team partner with Elevate Energy and local job training partners to provide hands-on solar installation training. Our team has already introduced 56 individuals to solar energy. 

My favorite part of work is going out and building relationships with the community. I love seeing everyone embrace the fact that we can start rectifying historical injustices by being intentional about the education, inclusion, and hiring of historically marginalized groups. I look forward to seeing GRID’s work grow in Illinois in the years to come!

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