Green Jobs Now

Santa Fe Sets the National Standard for Green Job Training

Posted by Tobe Bott-Lyons at Sep 22, 2008 06:15 AM |
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To many people, Dominic was just another statistic. By 16, he had dropped out of high-school and was headed towards trouble with gangs and drugs, feeling no hope for a future in our community. Two years later, he has taken all of his GED tests, is enrolled in classes at the Santa Fe Community College and is learning a trade. Dominic and five other local youths are the first group of trainees in an innovative Green Collar Job Training Program that will be unveiled Wednesday September 24 by the program partners – The City of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Alliance, and ¡YouthWorks! All summer, these six young men have been working with local businesses on projects including - retrofitting low-income housing, installing solar hot water heating systems and applying innovative green building techniques in an affordable housing subdivision.

With so many communities still talking policy, Santa Fe's model is creating real-world opportunities

To many people, Dominic was just another statistic. By 16, he had dropped out of high-school and was headed towards trouble with gangs and drugs, feeling no hope for a future in our community. Two years later, he has taken all of his GED tests, is enrolled in classes at the Santa Fe Community College and is learning a trade.

Dominic and five other local youths are the first group of trainees in an innovative Green Collar Job Training Program that will be unveiled Wednesday September 24 by the program partners – The City of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Alliance, and ¡YouthWorks! All summer, these six young men have been working with local businesses on projects including - retrofitting low-income housing, installing solar hot water heating systems and applying innovative green building techniques in an affordable housing subdivision.

The program couples on-the-job training with academic skill building and job counseling. This unique design provides support for participants and uses a multi-faceted approach to ensure the greatest likelihood of success for both trainees and participating businesses.

Trainees work four full days each week earning the Santa Fe Living Wage of $9.50 per hour. Partner businesses contribute $6.50 per hour with the rest of the cost covered through the program. On Fridays, youth participants attend a college class that was developed by ¡YouthWorks! and EarthCare International and is offered through the Santa Fe Community College for credit.

The class focuses on college readiness, career exploration, basic science, math and writing skills, and is thematically centered on concepts of sustainability. "The class has helped me out a lot," said Anthony Sanchez. "Without it, I don't think I would have gone back to school or even thought about going to college."

"The City of Santa Fe is proud to support such an innovative project. The same-old programs aren't good enough anymore, " said Mayor David Coss. "Green Collar Jobs represent an important new category of work force opportunities because they are often high quality jobs with relatively low barriers to entry. This pilot is an important element in the City's effort to provide successful, meaningful workforce training for Santa Fe youth while building a skilled workforce to support local businesses and also making a direct improvement in our environmental quality."

Three local businesses participated in the pilot phase of the program: Cedar Mountain Solar Systems, the leading solar hot water heating contractor in northern New Mexico; Shanahan and Associates, a local green builder working in Santa Fe; and Los Amigos Educational Resource Center, providing weatherization and energy efficiency services to low-income and other disadvantaged communities in seven counties in the region.

"The pilot program has proven to me that the idea that our community can't produce motivated and qualified youth who really want to learn and work in the green building trades is a myth," says Kim Shanahan, owner of Shanahan and Associates.

The Green Collar Job Training Program was initiated through a series of roundtable discussions between the Santa Fe Alliance, the Santa Fe Public Schools, the Living Wage Network, the City of Santa Fe Economic Development Division, the Santa Fe Community College, EarthCare International and local, concerned business leaders, like Coronado Paint and Decorating. The aim was to develop a community response to the rising drop-out rate and the difficulty many local business face finding qualified local employees.

"Local businesses are the heart and soul of the community. Many of these business owners wanted to help our youth while working on workforce training issues. Those that don't have the capacity to host a trainee have participated in other ways and see the value in being part of a community-wide effort," said Vicki Pozzebon, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Alliance. The business membership organization's role in the partnership is to promote the program, recruit local green industry businesses and train employers on mentorship skills, tax benefits, and various other issues relating to participating in the program.

Program developers found it was a natural fit to partner with ¡YouthWorks! which has been running environmental restoration training programs with local disconnected youth for the last seven years. Now, the program aims to serve over 35 youth in the next year and will target local businesses working in: renewable energy, green building, energy efficiency, permaculture and xeriscape installation, and water conservation.

When so much of the conversation about Green Collar Jobs remains in meeting rooms and policy papers, this program represents a practical, effective program that is helping put Santa Fe on the map as a leader in Sustainable Economic Development.

Tobe Bott-Lyons is the Education Director of  ¡YouthWorks!, which is hosting a Green Jobs Now event on the 27th.  Tobe can be contacted at: tbottlyons@gmail.com

 

 

 

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