A Fresh Start with GRID Alternatives

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October 04, 2021
Monica, on the far left, teaches an IBT cohort about battery storage.

Awad was looking for a new beginning. After two incarcerations and with a baby on the way, he wanted to get a job and a fresh start for himself and his growing family. After beginning GRID Alternatives’ two-week, self-paced virtual learning solar installation basics training (IBT) program, however, his new baby was born and he was struggling to complete the coursework. With support from Gerardo, GRID’s Workforce Development Specialist, Awad was able to restart his coursework two weeks later so that he could spend time with his newborn. 

“When I started again, I was more into it, I was more serious about it,” he told us. “And after completing the class, it was cool, you got job offers. We did a Zoom video where other people [employers] were telling us about other job training programs and job opportunities.”.

But like many formerly incarcerated people, Awad was having trouble getting all the paperwork he needed to be employed, and so he struggled to find placement in a job right away. 

“A couple weeks later, I got my paperwork together and Hilary, she hit me with a Gmail saying hey man, I got somebody that’s looking for workers. Man, Tellesen came through! She came through, came through, I’m talking about slam dunk, touch down, everything!” 

Hilary Tellesen, GRID’s Workforce Programs Manager, helped Awad get his first job ever at Trillium, a construction staffing company.

Awad went on, “I really salute GRID. They are serious about what they talk about, and they really took care of what I needed. Genuinely speaking, I appreciate them because of the courtesy and the understanding that they showed me. For someone to tell me, ‘You get two more weeks, I'm gonna reset the whole course for you. That touched my heart..and now I can get paid to install solar.” 

Awad was part of a group of 16 Butte County community members, recruited through partnerships with Workforce Alliance, Elijah House, and Butte College, that completed our virtual solar installation basics training program (IBT). Thanks to a combination of state grant funding and support from our corporate partners at US Bank, we were able to adapt the originally in-person coursework to Google Classrooms, where trainees can complete the work at their own pace over the course of two weeks. At the end of the virtual program, students receive a $200 stipend and are eligible to continue with our in-person two-week hands-on training. Both programs offer classroom solar installation instruction, daily support from instructors, and a competency-based testing model, as well as access to potential employment opportunities. 

IBT students participate in a Zoom call with potential employers on their last day of the training program.
IBT students participate in a Zoom call with potential employers on their last day of the training program.

In this cohort, half of the Butte County trainees were returning citizens, and the rest were Butte College students from the MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) program. Butte College’s students and faculty were also devastated by the Campfire in 2018. One of the Butte College students, Janel Luke, who joined our IBT course online, works with the Camp Fire Restoration Project. She took the online class because she is working on bringing a microgrid trailer in the Town of Paradise. 

GRIDs workforce training programs are effective because we hold equity at the core, as with all of GRID’s programs. We have spent decades providing direct services and engaging trainees and volunteers in low-income and communities most impacted by climate change to ensure they are at the forefront of access to solar and renewable energy benefits. We understand the unique needs and approaches necessary to support diverse community members, including re-entry individuals, in successfully securing long-term employment. The IBT curriculum itself was developed to allow for people with many different learning styles and backgrounds to understand the lessons and takeaways. Now, with the distance-learning training, trainees have the opportunity to develop their soft skills and learn customer service lessons from the convenience of their homes. These lessons provide transferable skills that could be applied to almost any job. 

For more information or to enquire about the next available IBT cohort training session, you can email Gerardo at gramirez@gridalternatives.org.