I saw a very inspiring presentation on the RichmondBUILD program today at CWA's Meeting of the Minds conference. RichmondBUILD is a pre-apprenticeship construction skills and solar installation training program. Established only in May, 2007, this innovative program has already received national and international attention as an exemplary green collar job training program. The coverage has included articles in the American Prospect ("The Green Gap," April 2008), Newsweek ("The Growth in Green Collar Jobs," April 2008), and USA Today ("Cities Cultivate Two Types of Green," December 2007). You can also see a great video about the program.
Since so much has already been written about RichmondBUILD, I'll just highlight a few things that I found interesting from a workforce development perspective. For one, the program was designed as a violence reduction strategy, in alignment with the priorities of the City of Richmond. Richmond is ranked as the number one most violent city per capita in California, and has a high school drop out rate of 50-60%. Graduates of this program, however, have a 90% placement rate and the average starting salary is $18.31 per hour.
The other thing I found particularly striking was the strong partnerships that the organizers say are critical to running this program. The only WIA funding is 15% money - the OJTs are paid for with private dollars so that they are free from regulatory constraints. The Housing Authority donated the training facility where each class builds an 800 square foot structure, Solar Richmond identifies the homeowners for the "live" solar panel installations, and employers are helping to provide instructors, corporate sponsorships, and post-training jobs.
At a per participant cost of only $5,000-$6,000, this is a program everyone should know about.