A while back, we told you about CESC’s internship programs and introduced a few of the stellar interns who have worked with us. Meet Jorge C., an enthusiastic intern from the Energize Colleges Internship Program at the College of Marin. CESC partners with frontline workforce development organizations in the East Bay and North Bay to provide opportunities for job seekers to gain job experience in the energy efficiency and general contracting fields.

On the job at CESC since mid-June, College of Marin student Jorge is working in the SmartLights and East Bay Energy Watch programs to help small and medium-size businesses save energy and money. Jorge has been learning several aspects of these programs. “I’m learning a lot of things– how to interact with clients and how to use the organization’s software to create a proposal for a client” were the two things foremost in his mind.

Jorge already has significant experience in construction: he has his own small landscaping and construction business and he learned carpentry and other skills in a formal setting through an internship program at Redwood High School, which he attended at the same time as he attended Terra Linda High School.

But with his eye on a degree in Civil Engineering and a future as a general contractor, Jorge knew he wanted to add value to his career path by learning more about the “green” side of building and construction: energy efficiency, “net zero,” and other energy-savings topics. As Jorge says, “I want to have that broad experience with saving energy,” with an eye to green certification in the future. Indeed, as with the Energize Colleges Internship Program, the goal of CESC’s internship programs is to help bring young people into the “new energy economy,” or the “advanced energy economy,” as CESC board member Hank Love referred to it in a blog last year. (As we noted in a previous blog, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ACEEE, there are over two million jobs in energy efficiency. CESC is just one example of an organization that offers jobs in that field.)

Jorge has already been out in the field, working with CESC staff on energy assessments, a process in which CESC representatives examine a business’s energy use in order to find ways of reducing it. Jorge is also grateful to be learning more office and technical skills. “I have been introduced to Excel and learned how to create a spreadsheet.” He has also learned how to plug data into the CESC system that calculates proposed energy savings, costs, and rebates for clients, and then to create a proposal for a client. “Office technology is rather new to me, and it has been difficult to learn. . .  [My mentors at CESC] have taught me so much. I want to give back.”

He hasn’t yet done any installations, but he may soon because, he says with a smile, “I did take and pass the test for knowing how to use a ladder safely,” something he has been doing for a few years already.

When you ask Jorge about his background, he doesn’t hesitate to tell you about it. He looks you right in the eyes and speaks from the heart. Well, for good reason, because he has a pretty good story to tell.

Born in Guatemala in a rural area, Jorge left school at age 10, after only two years, to help his family by bringing in some income. “I knew I wasn’t going to make a lot of money,” he said, “but I thought I could help them out.” After coming to San Rafael, he got sporadic work as a day laborer but eventually started going to school. He wanted to learn English and to better himself.

He sums up his experience in high school as “tough.” “There was a time while I was in high school that I almost gave up,” he said. Spanish is not his first language; it’s Kaqchiquel, one of the Mayan languages. So in order to learn new English words, he had to translate them into Spanish first (already a second language for him), and then into Kaqchiquel in his head.

Eventually, though, through hard work and determination, he learned plenty of English as well as other subjects, enough to graduate high school–all while working night shifts at Target as a cashier. In fact, it was his experience at that job that led him to pivot back to construction. “I didn’t see new opportunities opening up.” Knowing that he could work hard, he opened his own small business in landscape and minor construction. Although it took him a few years, over time he built up clients and references. “It was a process to get where I am.”

This is Jorge’s second semester at the College of Marin. He credits his ability to juggle so much–to work, hold down an internship, and attend college–to his work ethic and drive to improve. “I push myself. I’m a guy who always wants to improve and do better. I am proud of where I come from and of what I have done. I want to keep doing my best.”

Interested in energizing your future? Look at our jobs board to see open internship positions.