Solar Futures opens new doors for tribal youth

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July 02, 2018

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Ashlyn Hess, Solar Futures participant and member of the Bishop Paiute tribe.

A first-of-its-kind solar training series is opening doors and launching renewable energy careers for youth on the Bishop Paiute reservation in Southern California. GRID Inland Empire is taking our Solar Futures program to new heights, building on existing programming to provide hands-on on solar training through a “classroom in the field” model and real world job opportunities.

Eight students, ages 16-24, will spend a minimum of 46 hours attending workshops focused on building experience in every aspect of the solar industry. Following their training, three participants will put their skills to work during a three-month paid solar installation internship while one will be hired as a SolarCorps Construction Fellow for GRID Inland Empire. All of the students will step away from the program with classroom education, hands-on installation experience, a certificate authenticating their newly acquired solar skills, and a professionally reviewed resume.

“The classroom training was interesting as we learned about system design essentials as well as how much solar can save homeowners on their electric bill,” said 18 year old Solar Futures participant Ashlyn Hess. “It helped me understand the impact of solar on people’s lives.”

For the students, Solar Futures gives them an opportunity to gain deep knowledge and experience in a field that has tremendous long-term career opportunities. After the classroom education portion of the program, they spend a week learning how to install real solar systems for members of the Bishop Paiute tribe.

“We are now actually installing a system,” Ashlyn said. “When we’re on the work site I can really see how someone could get a job working in solar. I would recommend any young person to check out GRID, it may be a good career choice.”

The training program was designed to help bring the Bishop Paiute tribe’s larger vision of sustainability to life, which aims to serve 200 low-income homes with rooftop solar by 2020.

“Our Tribe holds job training in high regard”, said Bill Vega, Chairman of the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council. “Our community is blessed with abundant sunshine. Our community is embracing the future by encouraging tribal members starting their careers by offering them pathways in this promising field.”

Solar Futures is supported by SunPower. GRID’s work with the Bishop Paiute tribe is supported by funding from the Department of Energy and California’s Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program.