Green Opportunities (GO) in Asheville is using grant funding from the Initiative to launch a new collaborative model for training and placing workers in green economy jobs around the state.
Through workshops and one-on-one trainings, GO is teaching organizations from other North Carolina communities how to build green collar job training and placement programs that empower low-income communities and their residents and make their neighborhoods safer and more sustainable.
Green collar jobs employ skilled workers in environmentally sensitive industries and provide a living wage, advancement opportunities and a chance to serve the community and the planet.
“This program is about transforming lives. This program is about transforming communities. It’s about making people better,” Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, a program supporter, said at GO’s April 18 training retreat in Asheville.
Providing second chances for a skilled workforce
GO’s programs provide comprehensive job preparation to at-risk young adults through a combination of service-learning projects, life skills trainings, case management, on-the-job training, nationally recognized technical certifications and one-on-one support. In addition to helping participants prepare for jobs, many of the training opportunities directly benefit low-income homeowners in Asheville by providing them with free energy audits and weatherization services.
In 2011, through its diverse training programs, GO placed 57 of its program participants in green collar jobs or paid apprenticeships in specializations such as weatherization, biofuels production and installing solar thermal equipment.
GO is committed to helping people overcome barriers to employment, such as a criminal record, homelessness or the lack of a high school diploma. Participants who do not have a high school diploma receive tutoring until they are able to earn their GED.
One of the keys to GO’s success is its strong network of partners, including the Asheville housing authority, local green businesses such as FLS Energy, community development nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities, the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association and local politicians.
Creating jobs for low-income communities
In addition to providing people with vital workplace skills, GO is also creating new job opportunities for community residents.
An upcoming renovation project will convert an old school into a community facility that will house GO’s offices and training rooms. In partnership with the Asheville housing authority, GO was able to require that subcontractors on the project take on GO training team members as apprentices and temporary workers, and GO will train some of its members in asbestos removal – a much-needed skill in Asheville as there is no local labor pool with asbestos certifications.
The new GO Kitchen Ready program is taking advantage of the booming restaurant industry in Asheville by working closely with area restaurants to train and place participants in culinary careers. Participants learn the same life and job skills as in other GO programs, in addition to learning the skills necessary for work in the food service industry and the value of using locally grown, seasonal ingredients. The program began in early April and local restaurants are already expressing interest in hiring the first round of program graduates.
Replicating success in low-resource communities
The Initiative is investing in GO to support its replication to other communities across North Carolina.
“GO’s programs are having a real and positive impact on the lives of low-income and at-risk young adults, and we think it’s a model that will be successful in communities throughout the state,” said LaVett Saddler, the Initiative’s program officer for innovations. “Having a skilled green collar workforce will help North Carolina attract new businesses and create new jobs.”
During the three-day retreat April 17-19, sponsored by the Initiative, teams of organizations from six North Carolina communities gathered in Asheville to learn about the training model. Sessions focused on developing strong partnership networks, diversifying funding and reaching sustainability. Site visits allowed participants to learn about GO’s programs first-hand.
“Our ultimate goal is [for retreat participants] to establish strong, effective green job training programs for individuals with employment barriers throughout the state,” said Dan Leroy, co-founder and co-director of Green Opportunities. “Going forward, we would like to try to make this retreat an opportunity for groups like the ones we’re assembling to come together on an annual basis to continue to make progress with their job training programs.”
- Alternative Builders, Elizabeth City
- Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy, Boone
- Chatham Child Development Center, Siler City
- Clean Energy Durham, Durham
- Durham Economic Resource Center, Durham
- Greensboro Housing Coalition, Greensboro
- Housing Greensboro, Greensboro
- New Beginnings Outreach CDC, Durham
- North Warren High School Alumni & Friends Association, Wise
- Resourceful Communities, Chapel Hill
- River City CDC, Elizabeth City
- The Forest Foundation, Durham
- Warren County Training School, Wise
- Warren Family Institute, Warrenton
- Welfare Reform Liaison Project, Greensboro
- Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Winston-Salem
For more information about Green Opportunities, contact Leroy at (828) 398-4158 or visit http://www.greenopportunities.org.
The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.