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Case Study - RichmondBUILD

A Sector Partnership Targets At-Risk Youth for Jobs in the Green Construction Industry

Since its launch in April 2007, RichmondBUILD has placed 90% of its 130 graduates into high-wage employment ($18+/hour) in the green construction industry. After six months, 85% of these young adults are still employed. The statistics are remarkable considering the program is only a ten-week curriculum, over one-third of the students have a history with the criminal justice system, the majority are minorities, and most enroll with an 8th-grade or less literacy level. What are the keys to its success?

RichmondBUILD, convened by Richmond Works (the Local Workforce Investment Board), coordinates an unprecedented level of collaboration with employers, Adult Education, public and private training programs, unions, city economic development, and the city housing authority. RichmondBUILD staff members and partners worked closely with industry employers to identify needed skills sets and design training programs that prepared students for successful employment. These same employers play an integral role in hiring students as interns and apprentices, as well as full time employees upon graduation. City departments provide critical in-kind resources (such as 15,000 square foot training facility provided by the Richmond Housing Authority); private training providers (such as the Rising Sun Energy Center) deliver program courses; community based organizations (such as Grid Alternatives) offer coordination and funding for hands-on solar installation experience at the homes of low-income residents; and unions have worked closely with staff to ensure that the training aligns with apprenticeship and career pathway programs.

RichmondBUILD’s ten-week training program includes instruction in power tools, framing, electrical, plumbing, welding, and a strong green component that incorporates ecological literacy, energy efficiency, and solar installation. The solar installation component includes hands-on training in bending conduit, installing inverters, and participation in two "live" solar installations for low-income homeowners. This effort has involved the development of a career ladder model in the renewable energy industry with positions including entry-level installer, master installer, manager, project manager, business developer, and entrepreneur. RichmondBUILD graduates are currently working at all of these levels in the industry, a reflection of how the program has created opportunities for participants to advance to better paying and more responsible work as their skills and experience grow.

Compiled by CSW for the California Edge Campaign, 2009