GRID's "How I Got Here" Series: Jami Carrington

GRID's "How I Got Here" Series: Jami Carrington

This is the latest in a series of regular profiles introducing the GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles staff. In their own way, each member of our team brings a passion for renewable energy to the day-to-day work of Los Angeles' most socially-minded solar company. Here's who one of them got to that point: Jami Carrington, Workforce Development Coordinator.

As the newest full-time staff member in the Greater Los Angeles Workforce Development crew, Jami Carrington may sometimes find a new skill she needs to brush up on. But it doesn't happen as often as you think—Jami's actually a multiyear veteran of the solar world, with nearly all of the time spent learning the ropes alongside GRID Alternatives! A lifelong learner even as the mother of a grown daughter and someone who "retired" on paper, Jami holds her own as the first point-of-contact for many trainees in our cohorts. In serving her role at GRID GLA, she makes sure that individuals from communities in our focus (these days: Compton, Los Angeles' 10th Council District, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys) get all the chances to learn that we can offer.

Most of us have been working with our amiable, insightful friend Jami since 2019, when she was still in much of her training. As a trainee, though, this Compton-raised former transportation professional had already gathered plenty of career experience under her belt. Having spent the last several years in both the public and private side of mobility, Jami wrapped up her career in the mid-2010s with the sense there might be another chapter ahead: one she would find more fulfilling. Luckily, an alert from then-2nd Supervisorial District leader Mark Ridley-Thomas sent her to the innovative nonprofit Women In Non Traditional Employment Roles to explore what skilled tradeswomen do.

Jami prioritized chances to "educate myself, keep myself engaged," and she loved being physically engaged, with plenty of hands-on labor that was simultaneously mentally stimulating. After immediately seeing that the electrical world was a place where she could grow, she resolved to pursue and apprenticeship pathway following her WINTER graduation. The process of breaking into a new industry can be slow, and Jami ended up with a long list of tests and an additional waiting period to start her journey—during which time she enriched some of what she'd learning on GRID GLA training days by taking third-year apprenticeship coursework in photovoltaics. Getting into classes exposed her to Homeboy Industries, our partner, and the wide spectrum of Angelenos hungry to work in solar.

"I got bit by this bug," says Jami, describing her mindset at the time of training. "I've had the full gamut, and I want to understand this fully." As her career options came into clearer focus (partly helped a short time working in solar permitting in the private sector), Jami began to see more and more of GRID's multifaceted approach. She relished the chance to meet other volunteers who were women with significant cross-sector experience, highlighting the mentoring model that enriches GRID's family; she shared with one hundred-hour volunteer, Diane, that, "The best advocate I could be for this is to try to do it myself."

And then came one of the most important days in her learning year: Jami's application for the Energy for All program received approval! With her house in Carson a perfect candidate for no-cost solar energy, and a Bank of America sponsorship coming to the project, Jami saw an awesome opportunity that few get: to work on a team on her own roof, installing solar. Led by a female Construction staff member in Carson that day, Jami got to engage more deeply with the employees at GRID. She saw this as a team where her many competency areas – administration, people skills, solar technical knowledge, and trade work – could come together to help others.

We recognized even then that a NABCEP-certified professional like Jami was someone that we'd want to stay in touch with! The pandemic changed our volunteering model, temporarily but significantly, in 2020. When the dust from the shakeup had settled a bit, we were able to offer Jami a new role as a contributor, first through a summer corps fellowship. When that term ended in the fall of 2021, we knew that there were fresh opportunities to take on. With our work taking on an increasing entrepreneurial focus, flexible and sharp people like Jami are the kind of women poised to succeed at GRID GLA, at any age and with any future goals.

Today, Jami's presence is familiar to everyone entering paid training under GRID GLA's roof, including the many young people who are training with us in a hybrid format right now. These young people may not follow in Jami's exact footsteps – there won't be a GRID-run job fair in the city hall of their town for a while, and they may be engaging some barriers to employment that we've focused on, like workforce reentry after incarceration. But Jami has a passion for supporting people like them, all the same. And her role modeling, as someone who has taken advantage of GRID's full set of services, sends a powerful message indeed. With the GRID team, and her newfound place in the wider green jobs movement, Jami is able to testify firsthand that talented women are able to take a seat at multiple tables so long as they stay focused on big goals. Does she know it isn't always easy? Yes, but: "It's like raising my kid. Sometimes I'm just saying, 'Let's figure it out together.'"