Rep. Barbara Lee and an Obama Administration official praised an East Bay green-jobs training program this morning as a hotbed of California’s future economy.
Lee, D-Oakland, was joined for a press conference at Laney College by Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor. Lee had just toured the college’s Green Jobs Program, which prepares graduates for jobs in energy efficiency sales, retrofitting and auditing; renewable energy; and water conservation.
“It’s wonderful to see our tax dollars at work,” Lee said, noting Laney had received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funds for the program teaching “cutting-edge technologies that are going to help ensure our country becomes energy-independent.”
ARRA “really has been a lifeline for many communities,” she said, adding that her 9th Congressional District has received $1.9 billion under the legislation, the third-highest amount of any California district. “This is what it’s about – many communities have been left behind for so many years.”
Oates praised Peralta Community College District officials for making sure “that young and not-so-young people who come here … get the highest-quality education possible and get the real skill-set they need to get good jobs.”
Student Angela Davis, 38, said she has been homeless and unemployed but feels new hope because of the job training she’s receiving at Laney. “I thank you so much for this program.”
Another student – attending the College of Alameda through the Alameda Transportation and Logistics Academic Support (ATLAS) program, also funded in part through ARRA – said he was a truck driver carrying goods from the Port of Oakland for 21 years until losing his job last year due to new clean-air regulations. He said he’s learned more about truck mechanics and “green diesel” technology installation, maintenance and inspection in a few weeks than he had in 21 years of driving: “This is my second chance in life.”
Asked about recent reports that green job estimates might be over-optimistic, Oates said she has traveled the nation and seen great growth and opportunity in solar panels, wind turbines and other green manufacturing.
“The jobs are real, I’m not making those up,” she said, adding that if growth has been slower than expected, that’s because credit remains tight, not because the market isn’t there for green technology or because ARRA has been ineffective. “We’re trending toward our numbers … and I have seen the catalytic effect of those Recovery dollars.”
Emily Courtney, Laney’s Green Jobs Program coordinator, said she gets several requests per week from employers seeking people with the kind of training her students are getting, so she’s “very optimistic” about the job chances for her first batch of graduates finishing the program at the end of this month. She also said local residents should look into the many government financing, rebate and incentive programs for weatherization, solar-panel installation and other green retrofitting.
Oates earlier this morning had joined House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, to visit a training site for RichmondBUILD, a 14-week program teaching green construction techniques and standards, also funded in part by ARRA. She said she was told RichmondBUILD has placed 80 percent of its graduates into jobs; the program’s website says it’s 90 percent.