October 29, 2008
“It’s a rush,” Alvarro Jasso explains as he talks about standing atop a windmill 260 feet in the air. An Operation Maintenance Servicer for Suzlon Energy, Alvarro thinks the lengthy 20-minute ladder climb to the top is well worth the effort.
But perched on a sliver of steel, twenty-six stories above the broad expanse of the Texas panhandle is a far cry from the eight-by-fourteen foot jail cell he found himself in four years ago. Alvarro’s trip from prison to views rivaling some CEO’s was made possible by a growing trend of economic empowerment programs creating “ green-collar jobs” for low-income youth in the nation’s emerging renewable energy economy.
After being released from jail, Alvarro ran across a program called YouthBuild, where he learned advanced carpentry and practical job skills that helped land his current job. YouthBuild is one of several programs across the country striving for inclusion of people from low-income communities in our nation’s developing green economy. One in eight Americans live in poverty and about 1.7 million poor youths were out of school and out of work in 2005, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress.
Long before green-collar jobs became economic empowerment buzzwords, YouthBuild’s founder, Dorthy Stoneman, realized the potential that equipping young people with practical job skills could have on both their employment potential and their communities. Over 25 years ago, Stoneman started YouthBuild, a youth empowerment program now serving over 200 areas around the world by teaching at-risk youth valuable trades while building housing for low-income communities. Training 7,000 at-risk individuals a year, YouthBuild helps youths earn their GEDs, start a business, and have a chance at a new life with eighty percent of participants continuing on to college or jobs, according to the agency.
Since YouthBuild pioneered the concept of providing pathways out of poverty for low-income youth for over a generation, it’s no surprise that the organization has joined the chorus of groups embracing the recent green-collar jobs movement. Eva Blake, YouthBuild’s Green Initiative Director explained the organizational shift over the past few years in gearing its housing rehabilitation and construction programming toward the emerging green economy.
“YouthBuild calls for greater social and environmental equity from the economic gains that a new green economy promises…,” Blake stated, “It was a natural transition for YouthBuild programs to embrace the principles and practices of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green building as opportunities for students … while preparing for some of the fastest growing sectors in today’s economy.”