Businesses need a trained workforce, and local residents need jobs. Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC) has an important role to play locally in bringing jobs—and training for good jobs—to people in the community. For over 10 years, CESC has had programs offering paid internships in the energy efficiency and home repair fields to people starting out or starting over.
Take for example CESC’s Family Sustainability Project in North Richmond. For the past three years, a total of twelve interns from that community have taken part in paid internships working alongside CESC staff members to help low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services.
Workforce development organizations like CESC partner Rising Sun Energy Center can help people remove barriers to employment and acquire skills that can get them their first job. CESC’s role is in the next step; CESC helps people go a bit further. According to Executive Director Martin Bond, “Many staff members have been hired from green workforce development programs at Laney College or Rising Sun.” The next step is to provide interns and new employees opportunities for on-the-job training for various marketable skills. You can become LEED-certified, you can become an energy manager, you can become a building operator, you can go into the trades with a focus on energy efficiency, or you can learn electrician or general contractor skills. You can learn not just how to install energy efficiency products, but also how to verify savings. You can learn about building shells, insulation, air sealing, or HVAC. These are skills that can lead into good-paying jobs.
Past interns at CESC have gone on to full-time jobs elsewhere, sometimes even at CESC itself, and sometimes internships clarify educational goals for people. CESC provides interns support in getting the next job or applying to school. Of the eleven interns in the Family Sustainability Project, five now have full-time jobs in the area, and four have gone on to college.
Family Sustainability Project: Intern Spotlight
Former intern (and now employee) Bill Pittman of Richmond first heard about an opportunity for a paid internship in construction with CESC when a cousin told him about it in 2015. At the time, he had been unemployed for two years and was getting by doing odd jobs landscaping and other things. Bill, 52, is a high school graduate, but he wasn’t making it. He felt discouraged and worried that because he had been getting older and was “down so long” that he might never get up. He was homeless, he was couch surfing, and he wanted a steady job. So he applied for the internship, and he was accepted.
As a construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project, which combines a health and safety home repair program benefiting North Richmond with a workforce development program in the same neighborhood, Bill gained hands-on experience with plumbing repairs, carpet removal and hardwood floor installation, general carpentry, and house painting.
At first, Bill made it to work every day catching the bus from North Richmond. At the time, he had neither a driver’s license nor a car. After four months, CESC was so impressed with Bill’s progress and positive attitude that they offered him a full-time job as a construction technician, and he gladly accepted. Now he drives to work every day in his own car and has a real home in Richmond.
Since his internship days, he has continued to acquire new skills. He has learned how to install gas appliances and test them for carbon monoxide, how to test heating duct systems for leaks and how to repair them, how to install plumbing fixtures such as toilets, and how to interact with clients. His current goal is to continue to gain additional plumbing skills and to improve in all aspects of the job.
Bill now spends most of his time working with clients of Residential Energy Efficiency Services. Sometimes he also helps Jesús Ávila with the Home Repair program, the work he likes to do most because he loves helping the elderly. It makes him feel good. And “Jesús is a great mentor; he has taught me a lot.” Bill also has a lot of positive things to say about his training and his current supervision. “We have some outstanding bosses. They help you in all kinds of ways. The bosses here are patient and understanding. They work with you if you have a special situation.”
Bill is immensely grateful for the opportunity he has found at CESC to rejoin the workforce. After being down so long, he says that “now I feel that I can go a little higher.” He loves that he now has a home and a car and can afford doing things with his children and grandchildren.
Look for a spotlight on intern Anthony Williams next week.