This was originally published by WireTap magazine.
October 8, 2008
In the past two weeks, a lot has happened on the green jobs front. While Congress continues to battle over federal tax credits for renewable energy, green economy workers and activists came together for a National Day of Action.
In a similar rallying cry, youth organizers, representing over 1.5 million youths from 20 national organizations, declared green jobs among their top eight issues in the Youth Agenda launched last week. Amidst this flurry of activity, Emily Kirsch continues her work to bring green jobs to marginalized Oakland, Calif. residents. It’s what Kirsch does every day as the Bay Area organizer for the Ella Baker Center’s Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.
The Center is a human rights group working with local communities for economic and social justice. Its Green-Collar Jobs Campaign is unique because it recognizes that by working to reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels, it’s also possible to reduce poverty. As Kirsch points out, in these times of economic hardship, green job creation is exactly what Americans from all backgrounds need. Kirsch spoke with WireTap about how the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign helps Oakland meet several goals in one fell swoop.
WireTap: Explain your involvement with the Ella Baker Center’s Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.
: I was hired four months ago as the Bay Area organizer for the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign. The campaign works to create opportunities for people with barriers to employment–folks who may have a criminal background, people who have been out of the labor market for a while or people who haven’t had an opportunity to go to college.
What kind of work are you doing to provide green jobs and job training to those marginalized communities?
In our work, we have pulled together some partners here in Oakland to create a training program called the Oakland Green Jobs Corps. The goal of that program is the same as ours: to create opportunities and provide training for low-income people, people of color and people with barriers to employment. They provide the training for people to get jobs in the green economy, teaching basic skills like communication, time management and team-work. The second phase of the training is more of a hands-on component. People learn about the various tools and techniques. [For example,] they learning about different components of solar panels or energy construction. The final part of the program is paid, on-the-job training with businesses here in the Bay Area. We have pulled together a group of businesses on a council called the Oakland Green Employer Council. All of these businesses participate in the program.