Celebrating Rising Sun: Forging Paths for a Clean Economy and High Roads Jobs
Working at the intersection of economic equity and climate resilience, Rising Sun Center for Opportunity (Rising Sun) has been a force for change in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Joaquin County communities since 1994. The organization specializes in preparing youth, women, and individuals in reentry for high-road careers and green pathways that offer family-sustaining wages. In both 2020 and 2021, Rising Sun partnered with BayREN and California's Strategic Growth Council to implement the Climate Careers program, an innovative “earn and learn” program that has trained local youth in meaningful climate related work since 2000. Through the Climate Careers program, youth from low-income households provide residents with no-cost energy and water efficiency services called Green House Calls. Last year, 33 youth Energy Specialists helped Rising Sun deliver 2,496 energy efficiency kits to residents in each of the nine Bay Area counties and San Joaquin County. Energy efficiency kits include LED lights and nightlights, efficient showerheads, kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators, and smart power strips. Assuming clients installed all the measures included in the kits, they will have prevented a total of greenhouse gases that equate to driving about 2.4 million miles. "Last year, Rising Sun’s services helped Solano County save enough energy to power the electricity needs of two homes for an entire year. This is a great start and we can't wait to see more households adopt free energy kits and experience savings, both at the residential level, and for our county, especially at a time that utility rates are rising,” shares J. Paul Harrington, the Solano Country BayREN representative.
While Climate Careers has been a long-standing program with many accomplishments, 2021 brought new opportunities for youth participants. For example, 20 of the 33 employed youth were able to transition from their work providing Green House Calls into externships with Rising Sun partner organizations, in which they received an additional 120 hours of paid work experience. Opportunities were offered with organizations such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Science Foundation ITEST Program - Bay Area, and GRID Alternatives. According to Wells Brown, the Director of Youth Programs, the “externships help to further expose youth to work and careers that support the clean economy”. Through these externships, youth were able to work with and assist organizations tackling home air quality issues, operating and experimenting with cutting edge reactor prototypes, researching and writing guidelines for all-electric construction projects, and much more. The intent of these externships is to shed light on career tracks within the clean economy, providing exposure and first-hand experiences in jobs that are in demand, in the clean economy, and are high road with fair wages, defined paths of upward mobility, and benefited.
Learning from the challenges and opportunities of 2021, the Climate Careers team has been working hard to fine tune their customer experience while also providing more skill enhancement and proficiency opportunities for youth participants. “This year will see our return to community-based operations, bringing the Climate Careers program back to an in-person delivery and employment model, while also layering in newly learned best practices that came out of our COVID-19 pandemic response. We are truly excited to get back into the community, and back to our roots” shares Brown, as he explains the organizational shift to a hybrid model of service that was devised and fine-tuned in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the program to shift towards a remote offering. Learning from best practices of prior years of in-person work, combined with newly tested remote offerings, the hybrid model allows the Climate Careers program to continue serving the households and communities that have historically been prioritized, while also opening avenues of communication and geographic scope that were previously out of reach. Simultaneously, this model allows youth energy specialists to refine the skills associated with in-person work while also gaining exposure to new skill sets such as virtual assistance, data collection and analysis, and more.
As Rising Sun continues to excel in its mission to build career pathways for economic equity and climate resilience, BayREN is honored to continue an ongoing partnership with the organization. In its recent Business Plan filing, BayREN proposes expanding the Climate Careers program to address the intersecting needs to both grow the energy efficiency and electrification workforce and to provide high roads jobs for youth.