Pages tagged "community of practice"

Babylon, NY: Creating Green Jobs through PACE

Authors: Daniel Sanchez, Green For All Sammy Chu, a member of Green for All's 2009 - 2011 Retrofit America's Cities Working Group, is a local leader in creating green jobs. With Sammy as director, Long Island Green Homes in Babylon, NY, uses Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to drive demand for home energy upgrades. That program supports 50 full-time green jobs making homes more comfortable and saving money for homeowners. Reporter Stephen Lacey, of, caught up with Sammy at the Greenbuild Conference in Toronto. What follows are Sammy and Stephen's thoughts on green jobs, energy efficiency, and the future of PACE.
Babylon Steps Up the PACE of Green Jobs: "For Energy Reduction, Carbon Savings, and Green Jobs" by Stephen Lacey Sammy Chu knows that energy efficiency creates local jobs. He's seen it for himself. As director of Long Island Green Homes, a local financing program based around Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Chu has seen the creation of dozens of new contractor positions that have helped his home town of Babylon, New York, invest millions of dollars in efficiency retrofits. Since the program started in 2008, Chu says it has brought $1.89 in value for every $1.00 invested through savings on energy bills — helping support hundreds of efficiency retrofits and support 50 full-time jobs. "These are local jobs that can't be outsourced," Chu explains in an interview at the Greenbuild Conference in Toronto. "And the value is felt right here, for both the customers and the contractors." The town's program was so successful, one contractor moved over to Babylon from the west coast to set up shop. And in 20 months, his outfit grew from one person to 27 employees.

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Long Island Green Homes has been able to leverage that demand to create career track job opportunities to workers that face barriers to employment by partnering with training programs to provide qualified workers to contractors as they ramp up their operations.
If that's not the most important story of all this, I don't know what is. We have a contractor that is adding employees, creating jobs, we have homeowners who are saving energy, and we are reducing carbon in our community, serving an extremely important public purpose for all of our constituents. We've been doing it, we continue to do it in Babylon…. And to the extent that Congress can validate what we've been doing and make this possible in other places, it would be terrific. But we're going to keep doing what we're doing because we know it's the right thing. And it's been very, very successful for job creation, for energy savings, and for carbon reduction. - Sammy Chu, Director, Long Island Green Homes
Under PACE programs, municipalities issue bonds to help pay for energy efficiency or renewable energy retrofits. The home or business owner pays the loan back through an increase in property taxes. However, the Babylon program operates a bit differently, with the fee assessed through the city's solid-waste program. (Very accurately, the city expanded the definition of "waste" to include energy waste.) Creating 50 jobs might not sound like much. But when you consider that PACE programs create about $10 million in gross economic output and 60 jobs for every $4 million spent in a locality, that adds up across the country. If we performed efficiency retrofits on only 1 percent of the homes around the U.S., hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created — all with no upfront cost to homeowners. Babylon has been a major success story in the residential PACE sector at a time when other municipalities have struggled in the last year. But those towns and cities haven't struggled because of poor program design. They've struggled because of the stranglehold that the nation's top mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have put on PACE. Last year, these lenders issued new restrictions on mortgages to homeowners participating in PACE programs. Under PACE, if a homeowner defaulted, the municipal loan would get paid back before the mortgage. That riled Fannie and Freddie, which argued that they should get paid back first. So, the Federal Housing Finance Agency instructed them to enforce very strict guidelines on homeowners receiving PACE loans, forcing many communities to halt their programs. That put a virtual freeze on this important economic driver. But Babylon has pushed on. Sammy hopes that the city's success will inspire other city officials and national political leaders to help re-ignite PACE. "If we all got up and actually spoke with one voice, they'd have to listen up. These are organizations that contributed to the financial collapse of this country, and now they're hindering new economic growth," says Sammy.

Implementing the Green Economy

Authors: Kat Daniel | Program Manager, Communities of Practice Green For All recently convened the 2011 Working Group that will lead its Retrofit America's Cities Community of Practice. This year marked a distinct shift in the agenda from those of past years. With a strong presence of grantees and sub-grantees from the U.S. Department of Energy's BetterBuildings program and other members who have been working for the past several years in community-wide efficiency programs, the 2011 working group is very focused on tools for implementation. On the first day sessions focused on achieving High Road Outcomes and increasing the capacity of small and diverse contractors to perform energy efficiency upgrades. The conversation was very focused on business support services and innovations that can lower the barriers for small contractors to enter the energy efficiency sector. Working group members also discussed how to support and incentivize contractors to offer competitive wages and benefits to their employees. The working group started the second day with a workshop on inclusive finance programs that increase access to energy efficiency for low- and moderate-income homeowners. We spent most of the day discussing how to leverage existing community assets and neighborhood networks to spread information and generate demand for efficiency measures. The working group closed out the day with a discussion about strategies for better connecting newly trained workers to career pathways in efficiency.

In the form of replicable models, best practices, innovations, and tools for implementation, the sheer wealth of knowledge and unprecedented level of technical expertise about the efficiency sector that this working group brings to the table is contributing greatly to the growth of a clean energy economy.

Fighting for Our Future: Creating Youth Opportunities in the Green Collar Economy

Authors: Vien Truong | Senior Associate

Green For All is extending the focus of the Green Pathways Out of PovertyCommunity of Practice to include issues facing at-risk and disconnected youth. Our country's youth face some steep challenges. The numbers on education and labor give us sobering news on the future of our country. For every ten students who enter 9th grade:

  • Seven will graduate high school
  • Four will enter college
  • Only two will complete an associate's degree or higher

Many schools in low-income communities are graduating less than 50% of their students. In Oakland, where I grew up and currently live, some schools are graduating fewer than 25% of their students. On the bright side, the U.S. economy will produce 15.6 million new jobs from 2006 to 2016. And the growth in green jobs has been one of the few good news stories in our recovering economy.

Most of these new jobs will require some education or training beyond high school, but less than a college degree. Jobs requiring post-secondary credentials are growing twice as fast as jobs that do not. This means that many of our youth do not and will not qualify for the new jobs being created.

Youth must begin building work skills towards a career now or they can be stuck in dead-end jobs as adults. There are great organizations that are doing the work to prepare youth to take advantage of these opportunities. These include Austin's American YouthWorks, Denver's Mile High Youth Corps, and Berkeley's Rising Sun Energy Center. Check out this great video about the Mile High Youth Corps.

We must work to create pathways towards well-paying careers for youth, especially for those who are "at risk" or are not in school or working. We must prepare youth for well-paying jobs in high growth sectors – jobs that will be available when they graduate from training and education programs. As the country's green economy grows, so will the opportunities for the next generation. But unless pathways to these opportunities are built, those who need them the most will be left out. The extended focus of our Green Pathways Out of Poverty Community of Practice will do just that - identify the obstacles and opportunities for green career pathways out of poverty for at-risk or disconnected youth.

RSVP for a National Learning Call: Inclusive Finance Mechanisms for Residential Energy Efficiency

Authors: Kat Daniel, Program Manager, Communities of Practice Next Tuesday, December 7th Green For All Communities of Practice will host a National Learning Call on Inclusive Finance Mechanisms for Residential Energy Efficiency. The call is co-hosted with Efficiency Cities Network, and will begin at 12 pm Pacific / 3 pm Eastern. Finance tools are essential to achieving widespread adoption of efficiency upgrades to residential housing stock. Currently however, financing products for residential energy efficiency are expensive and unavailable to many homeowners. Experts in the field will present on why inclusive finance is important, the programs that are working now, and how these might be replicated on a larger scale. We are pleased to welcome the following presenters to the call:
  • Mark Wolfe – Executive Director, Energy Programs Consortium
  • Adam Zimmerman – Senior Vice President, Enterprise Cascadia
  • Mark Zimring – Senior Research Associate, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

Click here to RSVP

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Green Pathways to Reentry

Authors: Ladan Sobhani Contributors: Kinnus Paul, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice Ladan Sobhani is the Program Manager for Communities of Practice Last month Green For All convened a Community of Practice working group of individuals from across the nation who train or employ people with barriers to employment, including formerly incarcerated individuals, in green jobs. Our goal for the two days was to identify the green sectors that are most accessible to this population, document the best practices for green transitional jobs and social enterprises, and identify policies on a national, state and local level that can expand opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. The programs that these individuals represent are creating pathways to reentry into society through jobs in recycling, brownfield remediation, landscaping, energy efficiency retrofitting, and deconstruction (the process of salvaging usable materials from a building rather than demolishing and dumping it), among other sectors. While much of our discussions revolved around the nuts and bolts behind policy or transitional jobs models, I was inspired by the heart and passion that drive these individuals to do the great work they do. I learned a lot about how difficult it is for someone to reenter society after prison, the enormous amount of debt people leave prison with (average $24,000!), and the type of support and training that programs like the ones we convened can provide to help our communities heal. I asked a couple of the working group members to share their experience with us for this blog – here’s the response I got:

From Kinnus Paul, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice

I was invited to an invigorating convening about previously incarcerated people hosted by Green For All in Oakland, CA. You could tell from the agenda that this was a working meeting and Green for All was looking for answers. The excitement began to brew as we sat down for a meet and greet on Sunday evening. As we went around the table and introduced ourselves, we could see the wealth of knowledge and experience that our host was putting together to attack this issue. I got the sense that I was being recruited to join an elite force of well trained soldiers, all experts in their particular areas and all with the same passion for the work. On Monday morning as we began our assignment, our host acted as great facilitators, keeping us focused through each agenda item. With the wealth of knowledge of each subject that we discussed, it had to be a hard thing to orchestrate. As we covered topics from the landscape of green jobs to green social enterprise models, the experts in the room presented information and chimed in as needed to add to the conversation and/or give another point of view. I was extremely pleased with all of the things that we discussed and it gave me more tools to add to my tool box. I want to thank Green For All for making me a part of this discussion and I would like to thank all of my colleagues who attended this meeting and helped me overcome some issues that had me stumped.

From Gregg Keesling, Workforce, Inc, Indianapolis

I was recently invited to a Green For All gathering that brought together supporters and practitioners of efforts to simultaneously create jobs and to move formally incarcerated persons into these jobs. I was so thrilled to be a part of this gathering. I’ve felt in the past that those of us in the Midwest focused on recycling and reentry were sometimes overlooked, and that there are many opportunities in Midwestern cities like Indianapolis to grow green opportunities. Indianapolis only has a 2.5% penetration rate into household recycling. Our Mayor, Greg Ballard, has created an office of sustainability and is currently taking suggestions on ways to grow recycling, but only in ways that don’t increase cost and are cost neutral. We believe there are ways to reduce the current cost of trash removal, which is funded through property taxes, by expanding the curbside recycling and creating more neighborhood recycling centers as Workforce has done on the East side of the city. Green For All could be involved in these discussions and it is something I encourage to happen. I feel that some of the biggest impacts that could be obtained in the movement are where the recycling and prison reentry efforts are the weakest. I strongly encourage the leadership of organizations like Green For All and other groups focused on job creation for people coming home not to overlook the things that can be accomplished in the Midwest. There are many programs like ours who would welcome the help.

Green For All is grateful to the Foundation to Promote Open Society for its support of this convening and the Community of Practice .

Experts on city retrofitting convene at Green For All meeting.

Authors: Ladan Sobhani On February 18th and 19th, Green For All convened a working group of 30 practitioners from across the United States who are developing or implementing energy-efficiency retrofit programs. We brought together city staff, community organizers, finance experts,workforce development people, andbusiness and labor voices from 10 cities across the country. The convening focused on concrete discussions about the nuts and bolts of participants’ city-wide retrofit programs. Folks shared best practices from what has worked as well, the challenges they've experienced to date, and the opportunities and potential pitfalls that lie ahead. This was the second annual convening of Green For All's Retrofit America's Cities Community of Practice working group, and I was blown away by the expertise in the room and how much the field has grown and advanced in the last year. 

The attendees represented different pieces of the puzzle required to create a city-wide energy retrofit program that removes common barriers. For example, we learned about how Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia is helping emerging minority and women contractors overcome the financial barriers of participating in the Clean Energy Works Portland Program, by offering them “bridge loans” to cover their expenses until they are reimbursed. Representatives from the City of Oakland talked about how they are addressing pre-weatherization issues like lead and asbestos by combining the new, Stimulus-funded Energy Retrofit Loan Program with existing City programs for low-income home rehabilitation. We learned about the emerging models for community-based mobilization, outreach and marketing developed by Community Labor United in Boston and The DC Project in our nation’s capital. We heard from finance experts about emerging tools for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy. Legal experts talked about how we can ensure the jobs we create are good jobs, and are accessible to disadvantaged communities that have been left out of past economic opportunities. Most importantly, people came to gain access to the tools necessary to make their programs deliver a triple bottom line: benefits to the people, the economy and the environment. We all left the convening feeling better prepared to do our work, and committed to work together to share the information and expertise held in the room with the larger Community of Practice.
If you’d like to be notified of the Best Practice Briefs that we are producing, sign up for our Retrofit America’s Cities Community of Practice.

Call Tues 1/26 – Collaboration for Green Jobs Creation in Energy Efficiency

Authors: Ladan Sobhani Next week, Green For All will host our first Community of Practice Learning Call of 2010. Please join us to learn about how an innovative partnership in Seattle among community groups, labor, and workforce trainers is creating the demand for good, green jobs, and ensuring pathways to those jobs. Collaboration for Green Jobs Creation in Energy Efficiency A Community of Practice Learning Call Tuesday, January 26 11am Pacific/ 2pm Eastern

On the call, we'll hear from SustainableWorks and its partners in Seattle about:

  • The "whole-neighborhood" approach tomarketing energy retrofits through community organizing, and how it achieves economies of scale;
  • How direct-entry slots were negotiated for disadvantaged populations to enter apprenticeships with participating unions;
  • The role of pre-apprenticeship programs in the preparation of workers;
  • The role of organized labor in creating joint training and retraining programs, a skilled workforce, and family-wage jobs.
The SustainableWorks model demonstrates how diverse actors can work together togrowthe local green economy, create good jobs, and create pathways to those jobs through energy retrofit programs.

Community of Practice Learning Call next week: Connections with Employers

Authors: Ladan Sobhani On October 14, Green For All will host a call on how to develop relationships with employers in order to connect participants of green job training programs with jobs after graduation.

Connections with Employers

A Community of Practice Learning Call Wednesday, October 14 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern

Click Here to RSVP

On the call, we will hear from two training providers from our Community of Practice:
  • Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director ofOregon Tradeswomen - Connie will discuss how relationships with employers and unions have provided placement opportunities for the women this program serves.
  • Patrick Brown, Program Coordinator and Instructor atOAI, Inc. /Greencorps Chicago - Patrick will talk about how relationships with employers, combined with progressive city policy, has resulted inphenomenal placement rates for Greencorps Chicago, a program that largely serves individuals with criminal records and multiple barriers to employment.

Discussion Forum

We'd like to hear about the successes and challenges you've faced in connecting your graduates with jobs. Post your own comments, questions and best practices about how to develop relationships with employers to the Green Pathways Out of Poverty Discussion Forum.

Women and Green Jobs Roundtable - Green For All working group members meet with Solis and Sutley

Authors: Rebecca Lurie

Editor's Note: On April 22nd, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, held a roundtable meeting about women and green jobs. Three members of Green For All's Pathways out of Poverty Working Group, including Rebecca Lurie, were at the table. This post is adapted from an email Lurie wrote to the Working Group.

In honor of Earth Day, Secretary of Labor Solis conducted a roundtable of women from the field to better understand how green jobs can be theirs too. The Chair of the White House Office on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, shared the facilitation. Elizabeth Reynoso from the Green For All Pathways out of Poverty working group received an invitation and was able to refer both me and Jayne Sheridan (also from the working group).

The conversation revealed a lot of common recommendations from participants -That women need supports that are the same supports for many people moving out of poverty into the workforce. Education, transportation, childcare, mentoring and access.

Many of the green jobs will be in the construction field and what we have learned from that industry over the years can inform development of the new green jobs sector. Executive Order 11246, an equal opportunity law for women and minorities on federal construction sites, states a goal of 6.9% for women. This goal is low, is 30 years old and is still not met. Recommendations included raising the goal to 25% so that the work would not be considered “non-traditional” for women.

Awareness and outreach matters- Communicating to girls at very early ages that working with their hands and in physical jobs is a possibility. Teaching girls that they can do it lays the foundation for them to enter a field where they have to prove themselves every day.

Attendance at this event inspired me to reawaken my roots in this field. We need to teach each other that women belong in our programs and may need some extra supports. Confidence building is part of that extra. And perhaps it is needed across the board in our programs that serve to bring folks out of poverty. We need to assure that the confidence building efforts reach those most likely to walk right on by our programs because of that very lack of believing they can even do it.

So as we run and improve our programs for green jobs as a pathway out of poverty for our various targeted populations, let’s never forget that women are a sub-sect of all of our populations and they will need some special services that just might benefit all.

Secretary Solis spoke about the Green Jobs Act. She told us that the RFPs would likely be coming out of her agency in June. She will want to see proposals that include women in their approach and look at the big picture for workforce development, assuring that all boats rise up with the work we do.

A former carpenter, Rebecca Lurie entered workforce development through her union's training fund. Currently she works at the Consortium for Worker Education, focusing on creating workforce development programs that will accommodate the shifts to environmental sustainability practices. (Bio adapted from Urban Agenda)