Crosspost: Oakland Green Jobs Corps To Be A Model For Cities

Authors: ada Crossposted from The Apollo Alliance Blog. by Lillian Wilson After studying to become a nurse, Olivia Caldwell (see pic with Mayor Dellums) discovered that hospitals and health care organizations have restrictions on hiring formerly incarcerated people. Construction companies have no such restrictions, so she decided to join Cypress Mandela where she learned about the Oakland Green Jobs Corps. Olivia, mother to one-year-old Summer, is now a trainee in the Oakland Green Jobs Corps program. Olivia is excited about this new opportunity because she wants to provide for her daughter and looks forward to helping create a healthy world for her daughter. “With this training I can provide for the future of my one-year-old daughter and the future of our planet.” Providing “green pathways out of poverty,” the Oakland Green Job Corps will serve young adults who face barriers to employment - poverty, lack of work experience, limited education, cultural and language barriers, or history with the criminal justice system. The teachers at Cypress Mandela provide wraparound services and work with the students to help them achieve basic literacy and math skills, pass their GED, learn personal finance, get their drivers license or clear their driving record, and pass their weekly drug tests. The students receive hands-on training in the construction trades, as well as specific training for green-collar jobs, such as solar panel installation, energy efficiency and green construction. The program will also include a section on eco-education and environmental literacy. “This is a very elegant idea, elegant in its simplicity,” said Mayor Ronald Dellums of Oakland “The idea is to fight pollution and fight poverty simultaneously.” The Oakland Green Jobs Corps proudly launched in October 2008, after more than two years of hard work by the Oakland Apollo Alliance and a rich network of supporters and partners. The program officially launched at a press conference on October 25 that featured elected officials, employers, labor union leaders, community members, and for the first time, students of the training program. Elected officials from all levels of government celebrated the kick-off, including Mayor Dellums, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Oakland City Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Jane Brunner, state legislators Loni Hancock and Sandre Swanson, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, and Peralta Community College Chancellor and former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris. The Oakland Green Jobs Corps is a partnership between Laney Community College, Cypress Mandela Construction Training Program, and a workforce intermediary called Growth Sector. This partnership is designed to insure that students graduate with the training, education, and support they need to qualify for employment with green-collar businesses. The first cohort of 40 students will be placed in jobs by Spring 2009. In order to guarantee that the graduates of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps are placed in jobs paying a living wage, the Ella Baker Center organized the Green Employer Council comprised of green businesses and non-profits in the East Bay that do solar installation, green construction, and energy efficiency work. Members of the Green Employer Council agree to provide paid work experience and jobs for graduates. Roughly half of the graduates will take jobs with union contractors. “It is critical for green workforce development to be demand driven”, said Ian Kim of the Ella Baker Center. “We don’t want to train people up for jobs that don’t exist, and we want the training to be tailored for employer’s real-time needs.” The program’s model for green workforce development is based upon the research of Professor Raquel Pinderhughes of San Francisco State University and the work of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Oakland Apollo Alliance. The City of Oakland provided $250,000 in seed funding for the Oakland Green Job Corps, a signature victory of the Oakland Apollo Alliance. The city awarded these funds through a competitive process to identify the partnership most qualified to launch a new green job training program. This groundbreaking job training program turns rhetoric into a reality, and will provide a useful model for other cities. – Lillian Wilson, Campaign Associate, Ella Baker Center

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