Article - Office of College Advancement
Local workers get training for green jobs, and placement
By Dana Hull.
Thursday, April 19, 2012—Reprinted from Mercury News.
SolarTech, an initiative of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, has partnered with NOVA, a local job training organization, on a pioneering program that trains people for highly sought after "green jobs" in the region's fast-growing solar and energy efficiency industries.
Called the SolarTech Workforce Innovations Collaborative, or SWIC, the program goes a step beyond many other job training programs. Besides training people for new careers in the energy industry, it matches its graduates with local companies that are hiring and maintains near constant contact with cleantech employers to find out what skills they are looking for in potential hires.
The program's eight- to 10-week courses, held at community colleges like Foothill College in the Los Altos Hills or Ohlone College [emphasis added] in Fremont, are done for this term, and now SWIC is focused on placing its graduates in real jobs. So far, 255 people have gone through the training program and 121 have been placed, according to the program's manager, David McFeely, who expects that number to climb in the coming weeks.
On a recent weekday, SWIC hosted an Energy Efficiency Workforce Symposium at Cañada College in Redwood City that drew scores of the program's graduates, all dressed in interview suits and clutching resumes. The event featured eight "dialogue tables" that gave employers a chance to talk to job seekers in small groups about emerging industries like energy efficiency lighting andhome energy audits.
Many students of the program are experienced professionals who have been blindsided by the economic downturn and are eager for a new career in the energy industry.
Steve Hambalek, 56, spent most of his career in the Army and at Motorola., and was laid off a year ago from his job at Mattson Technology in Fremont. For the first time in 30 years, he was unemployed and found himself out of practice in the skills needed to find a job.
"I've been to a lot of job fairs, and most of them are depressing and a waste of time," said Hambalek. "Most job fairs don't have a focus. This is great."
Pat Fasang was laid off from his job at Altera and hopes to transition to a job in the energy industry. He said that the best part of SWIC is the organization's narrow focus on specific jobs like solar sales and marketing. "I've been to job fairs where I'm one of 200 or 300 people," said Fasang, who lives in Saratoga. "It is so crowded that recruiters can only talk to you for five seconds, and they just take your resume and you never hear anything."
SolarTech and Nova were awarded a $4 million grant administered by California's Employment Development Program to create SWIC, and the grant is scheduled to end in June. SWIC hopes to continue via private funding, and one of its big selling points to employers is that it cuts down the time and expense of the traditional hiring process.
"We want to turn this into a sustainable model, where we're not dependent on government funding," said McFeely. "The key is getting people face-to-face with the right employers, versus sending resumes into a black hole."
Abel Morales, 31, was recently hired by SolarCity after completing the program. He took an intensive SWIC course in solar technical sales at Ohlone College [emphasis added] that was taught by Stuart Wadsworth, a solar industry veteran.
"I learned so much from Stuart: how solar cells work, all the terminology, how to put a sales proposal together," said Morales. "We installed modules as part of the class and got hands-on knowledge."
Morales joined a SWIC alumni group on LinkedIn and learned about a job opening at San Mateo-based SolarCity, a leading installer of residential solar systems. He had a phone interview with SolarCity's recruiter that went well, then was brought in for an in-person interview.
"I was able to bring a lot of knowledge of the technical sales aspect to the interview," said Morales. "About three days after the interview SolarCity sent me an offer, and I was like 'This is fantastic.'"
Morales started working for SolarCity in late February as a designer of residential solar systems.
"It's really exciting to be in a new field, it's full time with benefits and my Mom is proud of me," said Morales. "The people at SWIC were always like 'We're going to get you a job.' They believed in me, they prepared me and they put me in touch with the right people."