Redwood Coast Clean Energy training program ends, reports success

CR’s Community & Economic Development was involved in two successful workforce investment act funded training programs here on the North Coast that ended in June. In a coordinated effort by the county, employment training division, The Job Market, Eureka Adult School, California Conservation Corps, College of the Redwoods and others, 170 north coast residents were enrolled in the Redwood Coast Clean Energy training program. The program was broken into two parts, the CA Clean Energy Workforce training program, otherwise known as the adult program, and the CA Clean Energy Pre-apprenticeship program, otherwise known as the youth program.

The adult training program’s purpose was to build a trained workforce with new green skills for employment in two target opportunity industries on the North Coast, "building and systems construction and maintenance" and "management and innovations services." Eligible participants mainly consisted of unemployed or underemployed construction workers, or dislocated timber workers. Over a 14 month period, three groups totaling 87 people were enrolled, provided training with certifications, and offered paid work experience in the green building field.

By the end of the adult program there were 86 certified green building professionals, 52 BPI building analyst professionals, 47 BPI building envelope professionals, 33 participants passing the NABCEP entry level solar PV exam, 35 30-hour OSHA card holders, and 23 eligible to apply for the CR certificate of recognition in solar PV technician.

The pre-apprenticeship training program’s purpose was to produce a workforce that would "green" the construction industry of our region. Participants were to get a foundation in energy system construction and maintenance, with hands on learning and paid work experience. Youth, aged 18 to 24, who were out of school youth, required English as a second language, were dislocated timber workers, or CalWORKS/TANF recipients who also hadn’t graduated from high school or a post-secondary institution and who had barriers to employment were eligible. Participants were recruited from Del Norte to Southern Humboldt, and over to the Hoopa area by youth and foster youth service providers, A-Step youth program, local tribes, and StepUp for Youth Jobs. Two groups were held in Eureka, one in Hoopa, and another in Southern Humboldt for a total of 83 enrolled participants.

Participants received training and hands-on experience in intro to green building, energy fundamentals, water efficiency and retrofits, energy efficiency and retrofits, solar PV design and installation, and solar thermal design and installation. All four groups were offered 10 hour OSHA certification. The two Eureka groups’ work experience was in coordination with the CA Conservation Corps.

The CCC supervised the participants during the entire program, provided them with lunch and were the primary method of transportation to field trips, etc. A few CR dorm spots were paid for by grant funds to provide local housing to Eureka group participants who were from out of the area while in the program.

The Eureka group participants were also enrolled and registered for CT 15 field techniques for historic preservation with CR professor Bill Hole. Hole utilized his network to provide work experience sites, such as the Annie B Ryan House, that offered hands-on opportunities for the participants to apply skills they were learning in the classroom. Hole was also able to round up local trade experts to serve as mentors, and local businesses to donate supplies. A highlight of the Hoopa group’s work experience was a trip to Napa to help build housing out of alternative building materials. The Southern Humboldt group installed solar PV panels at Salmon Creek School, built a solar thermal water heater for a wilderness camp, and built an addition to the KMUD radio station, all with grant funded or donated supplies.

Of the 83 enrolled, 69 completed the program, an 83% completion rate for an at-risk population. Seventy-four of the 83 earned the OSHA Certification. All who completed the program were given resume help and work-readiness preparation by The Job Market. The result was a group of trained, ready to work individuals. For some, work came so quickly they had to miss their own graduation.

Neither of these programs would have been possible without the participation of several local trade experts and businesses. They provided their knowledge, did some volunteer work, donated supplies, and provided work experience sites. Some of these businesses or organizations are Scurfield Solar, Trinidad Electric, Solar Racks, DANCO, OurEvolution, Winzler and Kelley, Humbuilt Homes, McKeever Energy & Electric, United Indian Health, Plan it Green, Organic Grace, Greenwired, and Pierson Building Center. That’s just a few of the more than 40 who participated in some way.

As of April 2011, 24 participants from both the adult and youth programs had gained employment. Since then, as the final groups were completing their training and work experience, many others have found permanent employment at local businesses. One has been employed at Winzler and Kelly, one has been employed by the U.S. Forest Service, and others by Six Rivers Solar, Alternative Building Center, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Redwood Community Action Agency, and OurEvolution Engineering. A few have decided to start their own businesses, or use their new skills to enhance what their existing business had to offer. Another direction some participants are going is to use their certifications and partner with local businesses to help home owners access funding and incentive programs for making their homes more energy efficient. Some will continue with their vocational training at CR or elsewhere, while others have decided to start, or continue, academic pursuits.

The college benefited as well. As a result of grant funds CR now has a new $25,000 solar thermal trainer that can be used to help expand and improve solar thermal education and training.

"College of the Redwoods was provided with the opportunity to fulfill an aspect of its mission - partnering with the community to contribute to the economic vitality and lifelong learning needs of its service area," said Julia Morrison, CR’s instructional site manager for community education. "These programs are a lot of work for all involved, but seeing the end result, hearing about the progress and success of the participants and the networking that occurred amidst organizations from across the board makes it all worthwhile."

photo caption:


Students works on the roof of the historic Annie B Ryan house in Eureka.