Reactivate is thrilled to partner with GRID Alternatives (GRID), Solar Energy International (SEI), Jobs for the Future (JFF) and local partners Elevate and Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA) on the implementation of a nationwide equitable workforce training program, Building Equity in Solar Training™. B.E.S.T. is a national program that will provide skills-based training and certifications needed for a successful career in the solar, energy storage and EV charging sectors by responding to industry demands.
The renewables industry is forecasted to grow to over one million jobs by 2030. B.E.S.T. is deliberately crafted to address that need with a focus on equity and job training for individuals from communities that have historically been underrepresented in industries that are advancing the country’s transition to solar and other types of renewable energy. B.E.S.T. directly supports this critical work by providing resources to individuals and communities and working with employers to ensure job placement in the industry post-training, thus helping to make the renewable energy workforce more reflective of U.S. demographics. B.E.S.T.’s goal is to create more than jobs, but also to launch sustainable careers with family sustaining wages.
“Utopia Hill and the Reactivate team spearheaded and sourced several organizations to put this project together that will start in Chicago and spread to other cities across the country,” said Adewale OgunBadejo, Vice President of Workforce Development at GRID Alternatives. “We’re very excited to partner with an organization like Reactivate on the developer side that shares a similar vision with GRID in terms of making investments in traditionally underserved communities.”
B.E.S.T. is an outcomes-based workforce training program that places great importance on quality and a commitment to an equity-driven model. This process includes working with local partners such as Elevate to ensure that individuals from underserved or disadvantaged populations or communities have the support they need to enroll, complete training, enter a career with family sustaining wages, and overcome any barriers they may face. This support includes paid training, tutoring, transportation assistance, childcare assistance, and case management among other services. Trainees to the program include women, members of the BIPOC community, justice-involved individuals, and individuals from energy transition communities.
The curriculum was designed and created in partnership with experienced solar curriculum facilitators GRID, SEI, and JFF a nationally recognized workforce training and curriculum facilitator. B.E.S.T. uses a mix of well-tested industry trainings developed to provide multiple certifications such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Installer Certification, OSHA 30, First Aid/CPR, as well as operator training, general building trades training, and customized content tailored both to occupational demand and to the needs of the target populations (e.g., those whose primary language is Spanish). There is also an emphasis in the curriculum on essential skills such as leadership development, problem-solving, teamwork, and a high work ethic. The program utilizes a mix of classroom training and hands-on training approaches, which Reactivate views as critical to ensuring trainees are ready to enter the solar workforce upon graduation from the program.
“SEI is very excited to be part of this program. We were honored to have been invited to share our 30+ years of providing industry leading solar training and curriculum development in support of this initiative,” said Chris Turek, Vice President of Business Development for Solar Energy International. “As the clean energy economy grows, it is critical that we ensure a diverse and equitable workforce shape the future of the solar industry. The partners that have been brought together by Utopia Hill and Reactivate are a dream team of subject matter experts around workforce development with a deep history in serving traditionally underserved communities. SEI is committed to growing the talent pipeline to employers and the B.E.S.T. model of programming is shaping up to be a transformative example for the industry.”
Reactivate, in collaboration with JFF, GRID, and SEI, as well as local implementation partners Elevate and CEDA of Cook County, are currently running the B.E.S.T. program in the Chicagoland area. The first cohort of individuals entered a sixteen-week program in February 2023 with an expected graduation in June 2023. A new hands-on training lab sponsored by Reactivate was built at the CEDA facility where trainees can apply their skills in an environment optimized for practical learning. During the program trainees will have the opportunity to meet with several employers including those working on Reactivate’s portfolio of community solar projects in the Chicagoland area.
“We all understand the importance of a transition to renewable energy to meet our climate goals. Those goals can only be accomplished if we provide opportunities and equitable training to everyone, especially those who have historically been underrepresented in this sector,” said Utopia Hill, CEO of Reactivate. “The teams at CEDA, Elevate, GRID, SEI, and JFF are all aligned with Reactivate on this mission and are determined to ensure the long-term success of our trainees. This program is the direct avenue to achieve Reactivate’s goal of facilitating workforce training for 2,500 underserved workers by 2030, and we look forward to expanding this program in new markets across the US.”