Laney Green Jobs Education prepares students for high-paying jobs
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 19:02
Before DeWayne Scurry graduated from Laney College’s Green Jobs Education program in December 2010, he had been working several odd jobs to support himself.
“I’d been coaching basketball at the high school level for 13 or 14 years, bartending, doing janitorial and security work, but something was missing.”
What was missing for Scurry was a purpose. “Some people just do what they can,” he said. “But I wanted something more, something that challenged me to learn.”
At Laney College, a challenge to learn is just what he got.
The program, which was started with a grant from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, teaches students technical and analytical skills in energy efficiency, solar design and installation, and provides a place for students to receive certificates from the Building Performance Institute and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
“The trades are just like any other profession,” Maeve Katherine Bergman, Green Jobs Education lead, said. “They need to be life-long learners.”
For Roxanne Rivas, the program’s workforce development manager, the learning that students receive is only part of the program’s benefits. “Because we’re grant funded,” she said. “We have the flexibility to change the curriculum to train for what employers are looking for.”
Many students work closely with Student Services Manager Jonel Seon, who acts as a liaison with community resources in the area, providing a wraparound service so students can focus on their classes.
Seon helps students with financial aid and the Board of Governors fee waiver, which completely covers their tuition, as well as connects them with other services on campus that help students with language, social, and economic disadvantages.
He also works to connect students with Swords to Plowshares, a community-based organization that provides additional resources including housing, job placement and public health services to veterans.
But teaching students about sustainability and ensuring their success in good-paying green jobs isn’t all the program is focused on.
“Without social justice, sustainability doesn’t matter,” Bergman said.
Earlier this month, Laney College was approved by California’s Department of Industrial Relations to offer whole general electrical curriculum. This rubber stamp allows students who have gone through the program to work on union labor sites as trainees, the first step towards a union apprenticeship.
“Unions are great, but they lack social justice,” says Bergman, the daughter of a teamster. “Now, we’re training men and women from Oakland for $83-per-hour jobs.”
Despite these successes, Bergman admits that without the business community on board, sustainability and social justice will be harder to attain.
“Green is moral, right and just. It’s also good for the earth,” she said. But Bergman says that green also has to be good for the wallet.
“What is the return on investment for green training and technology? That’s the bottom line, and what people really care about,” she said.
“Help the person, help the earth, and help the enterprise,” Bergman concluded. “That’s what green jobs are all about.”
For Scurry, who now educates the public about green polices for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, he’s finally found a purpose.
“Going through the program, blazing a trail for myself, gave me confidence to know I could learn more,” he said. “That challenge made me realize my potential as a professional and as a person.”