Preparing Disenfranchised Communities to Thrive in Green Energy Careers

.@ComEd gives $3M to train formerly incarcerated, foster care alums, underserved communities for green energy jobs Tweet This

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The 2016 Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) marked a leap forward in renewable energy for our state—and set the stage for creating thousands of solar installation jobs to meet demand.

As training programs prepare this future workforce, how can we ensure that they benefit the state’s most underserved communities, where jobs are needed most?

That challenge inspired ComEd to establish a new competitive grant program, with funding from FEJA and support from The Chicago Community Trust. And last week, on the first anniversary of FEJA’s passage into law, four organizations—Elevate Energy, Illinois Central College, OAI, Inc. and the Safer Foundation—were awarded a total of $3 million to train diverse individuals for careers in the solar industry.

As FEJA outlines, the solar pipeline initiative will focus on job training for individuals from priority groups, including:

  • alumni of the Illinois foster care system
  • individuals returning from incarceration or with criminal records
  • residents of environmental justice communities—predominately minority or low-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards

“ComEd is committed to helping grow renewable energy in Illinois and equally dedicated to developing the workforce of the future who will help integrate more clean energy, like solar, into the Illinois energy grid,” said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO.

“The training programs that will be created by the organizations announced today will ensure that the next generation of energy workers is prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities created by a new clean energy economy,” Pramaggiore said.

The training programs awarded grant funding will provide a pathway for trainees to enter solar industry careers, with an emphasis on rooftop and utility-scale installation, through a combination of hands-on training and relevant certifications. Working in partnership with employers, the programs are expected to result in 2,000 job placements for trainees by 2029.

“The training programs will ensure that the next generation of energy workers is prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities created by a new clean energy economy,” said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO

Funding for these programs was deployed through a unique philanthropic partnership. ComEd engaged The Chicago Community Trust as a foundation partner to develop and administer a rigorous selection process. After issuing a Request for Proposals, the Trust convened a two-tiered committee to review grant proposals and recommend organizations for funding: a Technical Review Committee of workforce development experts who assessed proposals from a job creation standpoint, and a Policy Review Committee of experts in the energy markets, community development and organizational capacity.

Leveraging ComEd’s commitment to helping grow renewable energy for Illinois and the Trust’s expertise in evaluating grant proposals to identify outstanding potential for impact, this partnership is a testimonial to the power of collaborative philanthropy.

As Peggy Davis, the Trust’s chief officer of programs and strategic remarked, “Our partnership with ComEd gives us the chance to support the workforce development goals of FEJA while helping Illinois pivot to a green economy. We are confident that the organizations we selected to receive financial support align well with our shared goal of building sustainable communities and an inclusive economy, especially among those who have experienced hardship.”