Finding a Career,
Not Just Another Job
WAYNE GATLIN grew
up an ambitious and
curious kid in the
projects around Fillmore, Calif. Despite
earning the equivalent of an associate
degree in psychology
and criminal justice
and working hard, he
found it tough to land
better than low-wage
Now in his early 20s,
his life changed when
his mother received a ;yer from RichmondBUILD inviting anyone to attend a presentation about the construction trades.
What Gatlin remembers about that presentation was the emphasis on working in
a craft instead of just a job. He signed up
quickly to learn carpentry. However, it was
during the solar training module that he
became most inspired. Gatlin was so excited by the live system he helped to install
through Solar Richmond’s training that during his job interview he was able to describe
every detail. The project, which took place in
conjunction with nonpro;t Grid Alternatives
( gridalternatives.org), was installed on a low-income home in Richmond. Within three
months of graduation, Gatlin was o;ered a
job by Sun Light & Power as a PV installer.
Gatlin has been working there roughly a
year, building experience. He hopes to start
his own solar business within ;ve years.
Although he doesn’t consider himself an
environmentalist or activist, Gatlin tries to
be an example of what one can achieve with
the right help and motivation.
“I am thankful for the coaches and instructors at Solar Richmond and RichmondBUILD
for helping me to realize that solar power is
the future and that I can be part of it,” Gatlin
says. He encourages friends to get training
through the program and ;nd their own
green career paths.
ZOE Y BURROWS, SOLAR RICHMOND
Richmond BART station, part of the Bay
Area’s public transit system. By October,
he and the crew are expected to complete a
system at the Hayward BART station.
Richmond building owners $1,000 if they
hire a Solar Richmond graduate on the
In addition to PV, program trainees are
breaking into the emerging solar thermal
;eld. Horne and program graduate Alberto
Martinez both worked with Sun Water Solar,
a Richmond-based solar thermal company,
to install a small system atop Richmond
Fire Station No. 68. ;e system will o;set
60 to 70 percent of the station’s annual
hot water load. Because the installation
team was a small one, Horne and Martinez
received lots of one-on-one guidance.
In the three years since founding Solar
Richmond, McGeoy has seen great progress
toward her initial goals. Nearly 4.87 MW of
PV have been installed in Richmond as of
July. In a 2008 NorCal Solar Energy Association report (at norcalsolar.org), Richmond was named among the top three cities for wa;s per capita of solar installed in
the Bay Area. Solar Richmond has installed
eight low-income home installations
and created 35 green-collar jobs, both temporary and permanent.
President Justin Weil
says he’s glad for
the opportunity to
try Solar Richmond
committing to hire.
“It’s much be;er than
a typical labor pool
company,” he says.
In January, Solar
Richmond hosted a
focus group for solar
Akeena Solar (akeena.
net), Sun Light &
power.com), Sungevity (sungevity.
com), SunPower and
several smaller solar
companies. Participants discussed what they
expect and desire when hiring newly trained
job candidates. The resounding answer:
so; skills, so; skills, so; skills! From showing up on time to being reasonably comput-er-savvy, solar representatives were more
interested in a;itude and professionalism
than in speci;c hard skills.
In 2008, Solar Richmond set up its own sta;ng agency, which
gives Bay Area solar companies incentives to hire its training graduates temporarily.
Jumpstarting a Market
to Feed New Jobs
In addition to its e;orts to develop
the green workforce, Solar Richmond
has worked to promote solar policies in
Richmond. In January, Solar Richmond
persuaded the city to pilot a solar thermal rebate program. ;e program awards
With a few hundred Richmond residents
on the waiting list for the next training session, Solar Richmond is working to scale
up its solar-promotion and job-creation
services. For instance, the organization
is working with local churches and other
nonpro;ts to evaluate solar at community
buildings. A pilot project Solar Richmond
conducted in 2007 at St. Paul’s Episcopal
Church in Walnut Creek, Calif., o;ers a
good model for cash-strapped organizations
eager to support the local community and
renewable energy (see sidebar on page 34).
By promoting the bene;ts of solar to large
building owners, Solar Richmond aims to
ful;ll its mission to install more solar and
create more green-collar jobs. ST