Youth Agencies to Share in $100 Million for Green Jobs Training

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Several youth-serving agencies will benefit from $100 million in green jobs training grants that the U.S. Department of Labor released Wednesday.

The grants – awarded to 25 organizations – are part of a larger $500 million Recovery Act initiative designed to fund workforce development projects in the so-called “green economy.” The jobs training could lead to employment that ranges from entry-level to unionized positions.

Among the youth-serving agencies that will benefit from the grants is the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs.

The coalition will get a still-undetermined amount of the grant money from the Central Vermont Community Action Council Inc., which received $4.8 million in grants for federal green jobs training.

Asked what he would tell youths who want to know where the green jobs training will lead, Kreig Pinkham, director of the coalition, said: “This is an opportunity for you to get some training in a set of skills that will give you access to a whole new world of jobs. You will have the skills and confidence to do the job well.

“And at the end,” Pinkham said, “you will be put in touch with employers who are ready to employ you and support you in the early stages of your career.”

Asked whether that meant the youths will get full-time jobs, Pinkham said they “absolutely” would.

“The key to this is there are employers ready to hire graduates right off the bat,” Pinkham said, explaining that most of the jobs would be entry-level trade positions in the areas of homebuilding and weatherization – jobs that would involve tasks that range from window-fitting to solar panel installation.

The number of youths to be served is still being worked out.

“More so than actual numbers,” Pinkham said, “what we’re trying to accomplish is to give attention to transition-age youth struggling in Vermont’s rural communities.” He said the job training would likely start in six months.

The Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), AFLCIO, received a $5 million grant to provide job training in the energy efficiency and clean energy industries in New Jersey, Massachusetts and California under a project called Green Skills = Green Jobs.

Of the 672 participants in the program, which will enable workers to secure industry-recognized credentials to get or keep jobs as gas, water or electrical utility workers, about 100 will be youths, according to Jami Simon, special assistant to UWUA national president D. Michael Langford.

Simon said the training project will not only open up employment prospects in the utility field, but it will help demystify the process behind bringing energy into people’s homes.

“The kids really don’t know about the utility industry. They think that turning on a faucet or a light switch is a utility. They don’t know where it comes from, where it’s produced or how it comes to their homes,” Simon said. “They’re very disconnected from this industry, and we want to connect them to build a pipeline for career paths within the utility industry to fill jobs that are and will eventually be vacated by retiring folks.

“These are good-paying jobs. Union jobs,” Simon continued. “These are jobs where you have to be educated.”

Simon said the goal was to achieve a 75 to 80 percent job placement rate among youths and to achieve a 90 percent retention rate. She said the jobs youths will secure after they get the training will pay from $12 to $19 an hour.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said the ultimate goal of the grant recipients’ proposed projects is to “connect workers to career pathways in green industries and occupations through critical, diverse partnerships."

The grantees are also supposed to “design and distribute training approaches that lead to portable industry credentials and employment, including career opportunities in registered apprenticeship programs,” according to the Department of Labor.

To view a list of the of the grant recipients and their projects, visit http://www.doleta.gov/pdf/ETP_SGA_Award_Summaries_120409.pdf.