Last month, President Obama launched his four-state energy tour from Boulder City, Nev., home of the nation’s largest solar plant. I was struck by the numbers the President cited. This plant powers 17,000 homes with clean energy. Another one nearby is under construction to power 45,000 homes. In addition, a third plant is in the works to power 66,000 more.
Those may not seem like big numbers, but in the Job Corps world, they are huge. They represent jobs, jobs and more jobs. Moreover, the numbers speak to a trajectory that is playing out in other areas across the country. I am thinking about Gainesville, Fla., where the sun is shining on Job Corps graduate Robert Griffith.
Griffith is a charter member of the Gainesville Job Corps Solar Program, which graduated its first class of 12 students last summer. He now works for Thomas Lane, president of Energy Conservation Services; Lane is one of 45 men and women worldwide who have been inducted into the Solar Hall of Fame.
“I love my life right now,” Griffith, 23, said. “I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work if the sun is shining.”
We have a lot of work to do to make sure that our workforce is ready to meet the clean energy demand, and Job Corps is doing its part. Students enrolled in the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Thermal System Installer advanced training programs at Gainesville and Treasure Island Job Corps Centers gain technical skills and a strong foundation of how to safely install the grid-tied solar PV electric systems anywhere in the U.S. They also graduate with certifications from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
We have started with two advanced training solar programs in Job Corps, and my hope is that many more will follow. Thinking back to those numbers in President Obama’s remarks, if that projection holds, we will need them.
Edna Primrose is the National Director for the Office of Job Corps.