All of a sudden, Mr. Evans jumped out of his chair. “I’m gonna go look at the solar panels on my house!” he said excitedly, as he ran out the door, surprisingly quick for someone over seventy years old. Participants of the Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP) job training group had just completed the solar installation on Mr. Evans’ home and were enjoying a well-deserved break with the hot dogs and hamburgers that Mr. Evans had prepared. Everyone put down their plates and followed Mr. Evans, who was already at the top of the ladder peering out from under his hard hat at his roof. “Man, this is really something!” he said. Everyone grinned, glad that they had pleased the spritely Mr. Evans, a DC homeowner by the Anacostia River. GRID Alternatives is excited to welcome 15 GZEP job trainees to our team for six weeks!
The Green Zone Environmental Program is a part of the Summer Youth Employment Program, the DC Mayor’s initiative designed to provide DC Youth with job experience to build their skills and their resume. While GZEP is working with GRID, they will complete eight installations, each preceded by safety training, gain certifications such as CPR and OSHA, and work with other energy efficiency organizations. “Throughout the summer they will be adding specific solar installations skills to their resume,” said Sienia Arku, GRID Alternatives Workforce Coordinator. “We will be finishing off the summer with a job fair, to give the GZEP trainees an opportunity to connect with solar employers who are hiring.”
Mr. Evans’ installation was the first of many. By the end of the summer, the GZEP trainees will be skilled at installing solar panels. “We are thrilled to expand our GZEP program this summer to provide SYEP participants with hands-on training in solar panel installation, energy efficiency, and basic construction skills,” said Tommy Wells, Director of the District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). “As part of DOEE’s initiative to create pathways to green careers in the fields of energy and the environment, this partnership with GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic provides a new opportunity for young adults in the District to gain valuable workforce experience, preparing them for employment in our emerging green industries.” For many people, job experience is best gained by doing. Dexter, a GZEP participant said, “I learn more working with my hands than anything.” For a lot of GZEP job trainees, their goal is to turn this summer into a resume building experience. Some of the GZEP trainees liked their first week so much that they want to work in solar. “I will hopefully make this my career,” said Dexter. “GRID’s purpose is to build community wealth through solar access,” said Nicole Steele, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, “Solar installation skills are in high-demand, so we're helping connect the GZEP participants to a well-paying career, while bringing the benefits of solar to their communities. This summer program will really give these DC residents a leg up in the job market."
In addition to working with GRID, GZEP trainees will get to spend time with AccessGreen, an eco-contracting business that installs LED lights, performs energy audits, and facilitates stormwater management. Joe Andronaco, President and CEO of AccessGreen, said, “One of the reasons I chose to collaborate with GRID Alternatives was that the philosophy of their organization is also a big part of my company, which is providing opportunities to at-risk and vulnerable populations. I can’t think of a better way to do that than through a green economy.” Throughout their time at AccessGreen, the GZEP trainees will learn about energy efficiency, and will complete energy audits and efficient lighting upgrades.
GRID wants to inspire DC youth and add job skills to their resume. We look forward to working with these young men and women for the remainder of the summer; they are really amazing individuals! As Joe said, “They were intelligent, engaged, bright, and they really want to make a difference in this world.”