As the Executive Director of GRID Mid-Atlantic and a DC native, I’m excited to celebrate when our community makes strides toward equity and justice.
Last Friday, 10 trainees in the Solar Works DC Spring 2022 cohort graduated after seven weeks of workforce training. In addition to providing hands-on experience installing solar, the trainees received soft skills development (such as resume building and financial literacy) and case management services as necessary.
Despite inequities in our community, our environment, and our industry, the Solar Works DC program is a source of hope. It provides opportunities for building stable and rewarding careers. It helps families who are struggling with high costs of living save money on energy bills. And, of course, it creates a healthier environment for this generation and future generations.
The unfortunate reality is that underserved communities and communities of color have historically faced barriers to solar energy and solar jobs. Access to solar is rarely equitable—which is why the Solar Works DC program is so important. It makes solar’s benefits available to everyone.
There are many stories that highlight Solar Works DC's direct impact on the community. I'm happy to share one that recently came full circle.
Two years ago, during some of the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Tyson joined the Solar Works DC Spring 2020 cohort. Michael was born and raised in the District, and for as long as he could remember, he wanted to help build the world around him.
"When I was a kid, when we would leave town, I paid more attention to the guys who worked on the bridges and the buildings," Michael said. "I wanted to be part of the growing world."
After many years working as a forklift operator, Michael saw how solar was becoming part of that growing world. Not only did he see the economic benefits of joining the solar industry, but he saw how it could benefit his community.
Michael's work ethic and enthusiasm stood out during his time in the Solar Works DC program. We recently hired him to join our staff full-time as a solar installer. His journey shows the potential for the solar industry to effect positive change.
“I wanted to show the example I can be for my kids, my community, my teammates,” Michael said. “I’m helping my community, one way or another. That’s the title that I want to have going forward.”
For the first time in his career, Michael wakes up excited to go to work. He's now part of a growing industry with new opportunities springing up all the time. On top of all that, his work helps his fellow community members save money on their electric bills and breathe cleaner air.
There is huge potential for growth in the solar industry that is diverse and inclusive—both nationally and locally. Together, we can make that happen…one solar panel at a time.
Thanks for all that you do for us and the communities we serve!
Executive Director, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic
Solar Works DC is a part of Solar for All, a Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) program. Solar for All seeks to provide the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households and reduce their energy bills by 50% by 2032. The program, which was established by the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Expansion Amendment Act of 2016, is funded by the Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF).