Students get trained for green jobs

October 20, 2008 7:25:22 PM PDT
The Cypress Mandela Training Center has been putting low-income students into the building trades for 16 years. But as the industry changes, so is the curriculum. Now there is a new training program for environmentally friendly construction.

In Oakland, they describe it as a different kind of boot camp.

"You say sir all the time?" Asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

Yes sir," said Mary Vanek from Fremont.

"That's part of the boot camp?" asked Freedman.

"Yes sir," said Vanek.

That comes from a 37-year-old single mother of five. Vanek has held several jobs, but after 15 weeks at the Cypress Mandela Training Center, she's thinking of a career in the green construction industry -- as are all her other classmates, like Kennethen Baird.

"It took me from a situation I didn't want to be in, to another area," said Baird.

They received more than encouragement from the city of Oakland. They got a $250,000 grant for more classes in solar installation, and green building principles, in general.

"This is an elegant idea, elegant in its simplicity. The idea is to fight pollution and fight poverty simultaneously," said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

But this project isn't just about green construction, it is about construction in general. Students built a house in three days.

Despite weak numbers in the building sector, this program has the solar industry salivating. Oakland suffers from high unemployment and crime rates. The low-income applicants for this program don't pay tuition, but must live up to high expectations.

"There is so much upward mobility in the green workforce, right now, that we are always looking to hire bright, motivated, trained installers," said Brian van Moos from Borrego Solar.

Which sounds like salvation in these tough economic times. It's a green light of hope, where there might have been desperation.

"Like my mom tells me, you have to work hard to get it. And I got it," said Baird.


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