Grants fund training for green jobs
Classes being offered for the unemployed
Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.
For more information about green training, contact the colleges or the San Diego Workforce Partnership at sandiegoatwork.com.
With $3.7 million in federal stimulus money, the colleges are starting programs to train hundreds of laid-off workers in jobs such as solar panel installers and landscape auditors.
The grants provide for certificate programs, ranging from six weeks to 15 weeks, that are being offered at no charge.
“These are specifically designed to get people back to work,” said Darlene Spoor, dean of instruction for continuing education and workforce training at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon.
Green training programs are under way or will be starting next year at Cuyamaca College, San Diego City College, Southwestern College, MiraCosta College and Palomar College.
Additional training classes are being offered through the continuing education programs at the San Diego Community College District and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership, a nonprofit that funds job-training programs, received grants totaling $2.7 million for the classes in environmental fields at the community colleges. Cuyamaca College received an additional $1 million that it is using for a green training program set to begin in February.
Spoor said a focus of the program is training unemployed workers in the construction and building trades for new green jobs. “A plumber out of work can easily become a solar thermal installer,” she said.
Michael Cohen, a Clairemont resident, opened his own business after training at Palomar College in San Marcos to become a home energy rater. Cohen, who previously worked as a waiter, and three partners operate Icarus Green Energy Solutions in Mission Valley. The business helps homeowners find ways to make their homes more green and energy-efficient.
“It’s been successful, and I couldn’t have done it without the training and the certification,” said Cohen, 33.
Green businesses appear to be growing at a time when other businesses are struggling, in part as a result of recent state legislation.
In 2007, the Legislature passed a bill offering $250 million in rebates for solar heating technologies, with the goal of installing 200,000 hot-water systems throughout California. Another bill passed last year allows cities and counties to provide low-interest loans to homeowners and small businesses for installing solar panels.
“The green building industry is going to be very big,” said Wilma Owens, dean of career, technical and extended education at Palomar College. More than 120 students are being trained to be home energy raters, who evaluate the energy efficiency of new or remodeled homes, and for other green jobs at the community college.
“The major objective is to give people training so they can get right back into the workplace,” Owens said. “We’re not interested in people sitting in a classroom for two years.”
Cuyamaca College has been offering “green” classes for more than 20 years, including degrees in wastewater technology, environmental health and safety and sustainable landscaping. The college is also home to the Water Conservation Garden, a five-acre garden that showcases plants and flowers that require little watering.
“Cuyamaca really is a leader in the green movement,” Spoor said.
The Center for Sustainable Energy is working with Cuyamaca College to develop the curriculum for the training program and to draw up a list of potential employers for graduates. The plan is for the curriculum to eventually be used statewide.
“There’s such a need for these types of jobs to develop a green economy,” said Ashley Watkins, manager of education for the San Diego-based nonprofit. “If
we don’t start working on these programs, the jobs are going to go somewhere else.”