California Governor Launches 'Green Corps' to Train At-Risk Youths for Green-Collar Jobs

California Governor Launches 'Green Corps' to Train At-Risk Youths for Green-Collar Jobs

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has created the California Green Corps, a program to train at-risk young people for technical, construction and other skilled jobs in eco-friendly industries that are expected to help fuel economic recovery.

Announcing the corps on Monday in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger said he wants 1,000 16- to 24-year-olds from across the state to enlist in the pilot 20-month training session, which is to begin this summer.

The corps is to be funded with $10 million of the federal stimulus money destined for California via the U.S. Labor Department and with $10 million in matching money that's to be raised in public-private partnerships. CaliforniaVolunteers, headed by state Secretary for Service and Volunteering Karen Baker, is to oversee the program, which would the first of its size and scope in the country. Schwarzenegger announced the program after meeting with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to talk about stimulus funding and job creation.

"This is exactly the kind of program that President Obama has envisioned when he put together his economic stimulus package, which is to create jobs, jobs and jobs," Schwarzenegger said. "The Green Corps will help underprivileged young people learn job skills while we create a well-trained workforce for clean technology and for the green economy."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Secretary for Service and Volunteering Karen Baker, left.

By Peter Grigsby, Office of the Governor.
The new program, Schwarzenegger noted, touches on issues that have been key to his administration: the environment, the economy, education, engaging at-risk populations and public service.

Although specifics are pending, Green Corps recruits will be expected to continue their education and contribute to communities through volunteer work in exchange for receiving job training and help with placement.

The program draws heavily on concepts forged by the groups that established the Oakland Green Jobs Corps -- a coalition of social justice, environmental and other community organizations, trade unions, private companies and the city of Oakland -- this past October. Chief among its principles are that access to and engagement with a new green economy should be open to all comers -- and that participation by the poor and other at-risk segments of the population will help spur recovery.

"This is exactly the thing we've been calling for for some time -- I couldn't be happier," said Ian Kim, director of the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which played a leading role in establishing the Oakland Green Jobs Corps. The Ella Baker Center was cofounded nearly 13 years ago by Van Jones, the environmental justice activist and author who was appointed last week to become the special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

"This is a wonderful downpayment on our shared vision for a green economy that works for everyone," Kim told GreenBiz.com and GreenerBuildings.com.

Kim attended the governor's news conference on the Green Corps yesterday as did Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who was among the speakers. Dellums told the gathering he was "extraordinarily pleased" that his town and groups in it "pioneered" the ideas reflected in the state program. From the start, organizers of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps sought to make their effort a national model for green job development.

The nine economic regions of California. To see a larger version of the chart, click here. California Economic Strategy Panel
California's effort is to be made up of at least 10 Green Corps starting with one in each of the state's nine economic regions.

Groups within each region wanting to participate are expected to partner up, devise a program model and apply for a grant from the state. A request for proposals will soon be made, and a Green Corps advisory committee will select the models that will participate in the pilot.

Kim said the Ella Baker Center and the California Green Stimulus Coalition of more than two dozen environmental, labor, social justice and community groups look forward to serving as resources and supporters of the state's Green Corps. Kim said his organization hopes to help the program and the services it delivers be "as green and equitable as possible."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visit the Technical Education Room at American River College in Sacramento. By Peter Grigsby, Office of the Governor.

Schwarzenegger made his announcement at American River College, where he visited a class that was learning the basics of solar panel installation. The solar installation program is one of 12 certificate and associate degree programs related to clean energy that are offered by the Los Rios Community College District as part of its Green Force Initiative, which has a goal of training 1,000 people in the next three years.

The governor, a product of Santa Monica College, said he is partial to the community college system and views it as a key resource for job training and as a "safety valve" for students and higher education, especially in troubled economic times. "I'm a big believer in community colleges," said Schwarzenegger, who signed a budget last month that provides funding for 36,000 more full-time community college students.

Image of Hard Hat and Tools — CC licensed by Flickr user rkimpeljr.
All Other Photos By Peter Grigsby, Office of the Governor.