Green jobs program graduates 40

June 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The inaugural class of one of the country's first green-collar job training programs graduated on Monday day in Oakland. Regardless, the job market is not as eco-friendly as many students had anticipated.

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"As we begin our careers we can look back on this point of our lives and say "Yes, I was part of something greater than myself. I'm making a difference in the world today," and it all began here," said green job corps graduate John Tafoya.

They completed a nine-month program that teaches green construction skills, solar installation, and energy efficiency.

"I'm a single mom, I have five children. I'm 37 years old," said green job corps graduate Mary Vanek.

Vanek is charging out in front of the green revolution.

"I have solar installation, I have photo voltaic installation. I'm thinking about engineering and the EPA," said Vanek.

The promise of the Oakland green jobs program is to fill the anticipated wave of clean tech jobs with these graduates. However, right now only four of the 40 graduates have a green job, which leaves program directors questioning whether to expand or restrict future classes. Program leaders for Oakland's Green Job Corps see a ray of hope coming from President Obama's $59 billion renewable energy stimulus plan.

"In California we're seeing a 30 to 40 fold increase in the federal investment in these industries, so we're expecting to see some jobs," said Green Collar Jobs Campaign director Ian Kim.

But program leaders say large companies, like PG&E have not gone on hiring sprees. Still, 12 graduates will have paid internships which, they say, is promising in this economy. The students have also learned job-search skills, and a sense of optimism that has them looking on the sunny side.

"This is something that we should not want to do, it's something that we have to do," said green corps jobs graduate Jason Smith.

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