Gill Harper, School Business Manager at our award-winning St Columb Minor School, is spending the week in California on the West Coast Green Alliance's learning exchange, organised by the IPPR.
All of us in the group clearly come from very different backgrounds and organisations but all have a common thread which is that we all want to provide opportunities for youngsters, but particularly people living in the more socially deprived areas, to access the skills and training opportunities that will lead to decent green jobs with a decent salary and a career path.
On Monday we met with the leaders of the Apollo Alliance and the WeCan coalition who have clearly driven policies to stimulate the transition to a clean energy economy whilst providing green skills and job opportunities for the most disadvantaged Americans in San Francisco and other cities in California.
Today, Tuesday, we travelled out of the city to meet with Tara Marchant, the Director of Oakland Emerald Cities Collaborative . She explained how their consortium has successfully worked collaboratively to drive energy efficiency strategies with a focus on retrofitting urban buildings. Their vision is to create jobs that have life-time outcomes for youngsters in California.
This was followed by a fascinating visit to RichmondBUILD where we witnessed a lesson during a 15 week job-training programme for local residents from 18 upwards, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, in green careers. This programme is primarily funded by the federal and state government but also has the benefit of supportive partners. The success of the programme was very evident from talking to the people enrolled on the training programme and hearing some of the success stories over the last 3 years – it is being driven by the Director who has a clear vision that makes it happen.
Our final visit today has been to Sun Power, a very successful renewable energy company who manufacture Solar PV panels. Their California Offices and one of their smaller assembling plants is housed in a fascinating old warehouse which was originally where Ford motor cars were assembled!
(image: RichmondBUILD students on the job training programme)