Authors: Barbara Grady
The Oakland Green Jobs Corps – a pioneer in building pathways out of poverty through green-collar training – will graduate its first class today and send 40 graduates into the world equipped for jobs in green construction, solar installation and retrofitting.
UPDATE: Read the San Francisco Chronicle article on the graduation
"This is a historic day for Oakland and the country as a whole," said Ian Kim, director of the Ella Baker Center 's Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.
After graduation, a number of these students will head directly into jobs with Bay Area companies.
"The success of this program has transformed lives," said Caz Pereira, director of Growth Sectors Inc., who worked with the graduates in the last phase of the program, the pre-apprenticeship phase, and is now helping to place them in jobs.
Several Bay Area employers have committed to providing 90-day on the job training for graduates. Others have agreed to interview the Green Jobs Corps graduates for current openings. Involved employers include: SolarCity, Sunlight & Power, Borrego Solar, Swinerton, Canyon Construction, Federal Building Company, REC Solar, Weather Tight, Spectrum Inc., Sungevity, Dan Antonioli Construction and Wellington Energy Corp.
The Oakland Green Jobs Corps began when the Ella Baker Center convinced Oakland’s Mayor Ron Dellums to champion green jobs training and provide seed money to get the program started. Three Bay Area organizations were selected to develop a curriculum and run the program: Cypress Mandela Training Center, Laney Community College and Growth Sectors Inc. Last summer they recruited their first students.
“We’ve seen transitions in lot of students,” Pereira of Growth Sectors said. “They are very, very confident. At a meeting the other day (with an employer), they were asking questions that show they are very knowledgeable. They are now college students, really. They’ve earned 18 credits."
This afternoon, students will graduate with heads high and futures bright, when just a year ago they had few prospects for good jobs. The ceremony will take place at Laney Community College in Oakland at 4 p.m.
“The Oakland Green Jobs Corps embraces a very simple, yet extraordinarily elegant idea: fight poverty and fight pollution simultaneously," said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. "Watching these young people graduate will be one more arrow in the quiver as we attempt to address these very important issues. Think about these young people who are graduating as the astronauts of the green revolution."
Some of the graduates plan to continue in community college, others plan to work or to look for work. “The fact that they are in the green industry makes them proud,” Pereira said.