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Originally published on the US Bank blog
Solar installation jobs can be lucrative, with salaries ranging from $40,000 to $150,000 a year. In Southern California’s Inland Empire region, where the poverty rate is higher than most of the country and only 15% of high school graduates earn a bachelor’s degree, the industry can provide an attractive alternative to college.
That’s partly why the project to build a new Clean Technology Training Center (CTTC) by the Inland Empire (IE) office of GRID Alternatives, the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, is so exciting. The facility, which opened earlier this month and will welcome its first students in early 2023, will make solar installations more accessible to many in the region.
“Currently, GRID Alternatives Inland Empire is the only solar installation instructor in the Inland Empire that provides hands-on experience at no cost to business trainees,” said Nika Hogue, development specialist for GRID IE. “Recognizing the vital need for alternative education pathways in the Inland Empire, GRID is proactively responding by building CTTC for workforce development, providing pathways to bright careers for the local workforce, and meeting the needs of green energy employers.”
Built with the help of a $50,000 US Bank Market Impact Fund grant, the CTTC will be unique in that the facility will feature false roofs that allow trainees to gain hands-on experience without being in the field. This will be especially beneficial for high school youth who may not have access to the roof due to age restrictions. A separate $10,000 U.S. Bank Community Opportunity Grant for GRID IE will help fund the first cohort of 40 Solar Futures students at the facility, with programming for 300 students planned for 2023.
However, the new CTTC with false roofs will not only benefit high school students. The centrally located facility will also increase access to training for people across the spectrum of physical abilities and people living in transit who are not ready for transportation.
“The biggest new opportunity that the new Clean Technology Training Center will provide us is that it will create a dedicated location independent of our construction operations in the field where we can provide centralized access to job training in a very controlled environment,” said Jaime Alonso, CEO of GRID Alternatives IE.
The new facility will allow us to meet people where they are, train more individuals and collaborate with more nonprofit partners working with special populations, such as the justice-involved community. Whether training or not, this facility will help increase the number of solar installations for the low-income families served by GRID IE. Homeowners classified as low-income receive solar systems for free, with no taxes or fees, and benefit from 100% of the energy provided by the solar installations – saving families up to 75% on their utility bills each year.
GRID was founded in 2001 in the wake of the California energy crisis, and US Bank has been a partner since 2010, providing nearly $900,000 in funding. This includes a $155,000 grant since 2015 specifically for GRID IE.
“We are excited about this project and our continued partnership with GRID,” said Reba Dominski, US Bank’s chief social responsibility officer. “This new facility will provide hands-on job training to create career opportunities in a growing and competitive field and provide solar energy to help homeowners in low- and moderate-income communities pay their monthly energy bills.”
GRID Alternatives’ Inland Empire office opened in 2011 and has since helped train nearly 4,000 people. Many of these people went on to work at for-profit companies that were happy to have a pipeline of new talent. Demand for trained solar installers is expected to remain strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting job demand will grow 27% through 2031.
“It really gives people access to a decent paying job with a skill level that is transferable between different companies. It elevates the entire local community and the communities we serve, which are vibrant and diverse — but face challenges of unequal access to low-income and high-wage jobs,” said Richard Lintin, director of communications and marketing for GRID Inland Empire.
GRID operates locally through eight affiliates in California, Colorado, the Mid-Atlantic region, and also manages a Tribal Program headquartered in Denver and an International Program serving Nicaragua, Nepal, and Mexico.
In 2018, US Bank expanded its national partnership to include the Tribal Program, which works with tribal leaders to provide resources for solar projects, including financing, know-how and job training for community members to build solar installations. . The projects themselves not only benefit tribal communities by reducing energy costs, providing renewable energy and job training, but also give them greater control over their energy resources – which GRID believes is important, such as indigenous lands with a long history of energy exploitation. .
In addition to its support of the Tribal Program through grants, US Bank also supports the American Indian College Foundation through renewable energy scholarships – most recently funding a $25,000 scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year.
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