After six weeks of solar training, the inaugural Solar Works DC cohort graduated in August. Solar Works DC is a low-income solar installation and job-training program spearheaded by the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) and the Department of Employment Services (DOES). GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic is implementing the first year of the program, preparing District residents to enter careers in solar and related fields while reducing energy costs for qualified low-income District homeowners. The program consists of solar installations, professional development and outreach workshops, construction trainings, CPR and OSHA 10 classes, and hands-on learning. By the end of the program, job trainees installed solar on 12 homes, a total solar capacity of 53.6 kW.
The first cohort consisted of participants of the Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP), part of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Most of the participants, aged 18-24, were introduced to solar for the first time through Solar Works DC.
Reginald Chandler, a fellow job trainee whose background is in plumbing, was also introduced to solar through the program. “I like the work. I like dealing with tools. I like being hands-on. I like being on the roof a lot. I love the fact that I’m learning something new that I can take with me throughout the course of my life,” said Reginald.
Other trainees felt drawn to the environmental impact of installing solar. “We are the ones who mess up the world,” Anthony Garner explained, “And by putting up solar panels, then we can do our part in fixing the world.”
Nicholas Henderson, nineteen, a recent high school graduate, was initially introduced to GRID Alternatives during a Solar Futures mock install at his school, and was excited to learn he could continue his training with Solar Works DC. His high school provided technical training in HVAC maintenance, so Nicholas was used to hands-on learning. “I love it. I love working on the roof. I love working on the electric part. I love the team,” he said.
Thomas Hill, the Site Manager for GZEP, and spent a lot of time with the job trainees over the summer, and was able to see their journey from start to finish. “You see a big change from week one to when you get to week five and week six. They want to be more engaged and learn more,” he said.
Larissa Etwaroo, with the Department of Energy and the Environment summed up their summer by saying, “This is only the beginning and your futures are bright.”