Inspiring Careers in Solar


May 17, 2017

Dave Johnson showing a student how to connect a solar panel

Dave Johnson showing a student how to connect a solar panel
GRID uses a hands-on job training model to give students transferable skills

GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic joined Constellation Energy and The National Energy Education (NEED) Project to educate a group of high school students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School about possible job opportunities in the clean energy field. 

During the event, students were divided into different workshops organized by Constellation Energy, NEED, and GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. Anthony Allard, the engineering teacher for 9th to 12th graders, had his students join GRID to complete a mock solar installation in the school’s hallway. Mr. Allard shared, “It’s not everyday where we have demonstrations or job training learning opportunities at our school. I hope that out of today, my students get excited about solar, renewable energy, and the different trade in this field that they can pursue after they graduate.”


Keon Coutler, SolarCorps Construction Fellow, in front of a group of students, explaining his experience.
Keon Coulter shares his first experience getting on a roof
Since 2014, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic has trained over 500 volunteers and trainees, including current SolarCorps Construction Fellow, Keon Coulter, who completed the Department of Energy and the Environment’s Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP) with GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic last summer, shared his experience with the students. Keon said, “During my first install, the first time I got on the roof, it was the worst experience of my life. However, as I paced myself and finally got on my feet, I was able to finish the six week program. Now I’m in a year long program to learn more about solar.” 

"GRID uses the job training model to do the solar installations," explained Nicole Steele, the Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. GRID Alternatives has a solar education program called Solar Futures, a K-14 program that invites students to learn more about solar and experience the different career opportunities involving solar, whether in the field or the office.  GRID has already invited 6 students from Dunbar to GRID’s office for a shadow day, where they joined staff in the office to learn about the different departmental roles.

Dave Johnson leads a group of students in a mock solar installation
Dave Johnson leads a group of students in a mock solar installation
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC  is rich in history. For instance, Frederick Douglass gave the address to the first graduating class when the school opened in 1870 as the first public high school for African-Americans. The school also has a list of notable alumnus including scientist James E. Bowman, artist Elizabeth Catlett, and civil rights activist John Aubrey Davis, Sr.

The four-story high school, which enrolls 628 students, made green building history in 2015 when it received the highest rated LEED Platinum score for a school project in the country.  As a leader in sustainable design and construction, Zach Dobelbower, Associate Director of Sustainability and Energy from the Department of General Services extolled, “Dunbar may be one of the greenest school in the planet.” The school reuses collected rainwater to reduce water usage by 50%, incorporates the use of renewable energies like geothermal, and hosts the largest solar panel array on a single building in the District. Zach concluded, “We hope this provides a platform for you all to excel and have incredible careers in engineering and the sciences and to make a difference so that we can heal our planet.”

A Dunbar student takes a break from installing and poses for the camera
For many, this was the student's first time installing solar
Although a majority of the student audience joining were enrolled in the specialized engineering academy based on their current career interest, Gary Fromer, Senior Vice President of Distributed Energy for Constellation Energy emphasized the eclectic skills and interests that are needed in the solar industry. Gary explained, “We need people to put solar on the roof. We need people to write software for our programs. We need people who know how to do art to help people understand our work.”

See more pictures from the event here! Special thanks to SunPower for supporting our Solar Futures program!