NYSERDA’s Workforce Funding Offers Career Opportunities for Disadvantaged Workers

NYSERDA’s Career Pathways for Disadvantaged Workers Initiatives, through its Workforce Development Program, provides funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency training for minority, low-income and disadvantaged workers.

The Osborne Association, a partner in this NYSERDA initiative, connects formerly incarcerated individuals to employment opportunities in the growing Green job sector, training people for sustainable career pathways and placing them in jobs that support their growth, their families, and the environment through its Green Career Center.

Rebecca Sterling, NYSERDA Project Manager, generously shared a success story about one of those people who benefitted from this initiative.

30 April 2012
By Rebecca Sterling

New York State Energy Research & Development Authority
Reprinted with permission from Rebecca Sterling

I wanted to share with you another great success story from our partners at the Osborne Association, Solar One, Per Scholas and the Association for Energy Affordability. I love Sean’s story because he doesn’t shy away from his past- he’s found a place where he can grow, develop and continue to advance himself. Meet Sean:

Sean is an Osborne Association Green Career Center (GCC) graduate who demonstrated great administrative skills during the course of his training, and those skills were greatly enhanced by the contextualized Excel classes and the Roots of Success: Environmental Literacy Curriculum.    Not only did he complete our training, but he completed additional professional development trainings with our partners, earning certificates and certifications.  When a position as a Program Assistant in the Green Career Center became available, the Osborne Association looked toward Sean . . . and he has been with the GCC since.  Here is what he had to say about his experience.

What fears, hesitations or barriers did you feel were in your way when you came home from prison?
After being released from prison, the biggest barrier that I felt was in my way, was the stigma of being “a felon.”  In the back of my mind, there was always the fear that I’ll be seen as a felon first, and a person second, for the rest of my life.  I knew that it would take a lot of work, and only my perseverance would show, not only to employers and society, but to myself, that I’ve changed.

What opportunity did you see for yourself by going to the Green Career Center?
I thought by going to the Green Career Center, it would be a great opportunity for me because GCC specifically dealt with ex-offenders, who are looking for employment opportunities and a new way of living.  Also I felt that this would be a place where I wouldn’t have to dodge the question of my felony conviction, so that alone gave me a great sense of confidence.

How did your vision for your career change during your time with GCC?
Initially, I thought I would enroll in GCC for the standard 6 weeks and then find some type of employment for myself.  After being enrolled there for the first week, so many opportunities were introduced to me through the various courses and trainings that I figured I’d take full advantage of everything I could.  Prior to GCC, the only thing I knew about being “green” was recycling.  I turned my 6 weeks of training into about 4 months of certificates and certifications, which has made me more marketable in the workforce.  I am proud to say that I am certified in Basic Air Sealing and Insulation, I have an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification, a certificate from Hostos Community College for Plumbing and Electric for Green Jobs, a certificate from The Association for Energy Affordability as an Energy Efficiency Technician, a certificate from Solar One for Building Performance and Electrical Retrofitting, a certificate of completion from the Green Career Center, and I’ve recently taken the Building Analyst certification written exam with The Association for Energy Affordability and passed.  Also I am currently employed by GCC in an administrative capacity as a Program Assistant/Data Entry Clerk, which is one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve had thus far.

What struggles have you had to overcome to earn your certificates?
The biggest struggles that I’ve had to overcome in earning my certificates through the Green Career Center, were me learning new things.  I’ve never been a “hands on” type of employee.  My background has been in administrative work, so I had no experience in construction, electrical or anything that GCC was offering me.  Now, because of the training I received, I am very comfortable working with my hands.

What is next for you now?
Next for me is to take the field exam for the Building Analyst certification, continue to work at the Green Career Center and keep my options open, as I am trained and skilled in so many areas now, thanks to the Green Career Center.



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