On December 14, 2012 the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO) hosted the “Clean Energy in the Valley: Where Are the Jobs?” workshop as part of the efforts for the Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change (C6). The SJVCEO is working with employers and West Hills College Coalinga to develop clean energy curriculum and how the Valley’s workforce is trained and prepared for employment. SJVCEO staff crafted this one-day workshop to serve as a true “work” shop in which attendees and organizers would collaborate to geographically determine where the jobs are now, where projects are planned, and what the actual employment opportunities are in the eight county region of the San Joaquin Valley. Data gathered would be used to jump start the project of populating an interactive geographic information system (GIS) based map that represents what, where and when clean energy jobs are available in the Valley, what training and certifications are needed at each site, and where training is available. In addition to the brainstorming breakout session, attendees were treated to three topical presentations. Guest speakers included Heather Croom and Dave Pastizzo of VESTRA to demonstrate the GIS map; Jim Anshutz of AG/H20 and the WET Center to discuss opportunities in the water/energy nexus; and Ryan Drobeck of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology to shed light on the market and policies that impact clean energy jobs.
The workshop was well attended by those in both industry and education. So how long was the actual list of jobs that was created? Unfortunately, the list is nonexistent. We found having a room full of employers was beneficial in addressing the general issues, however, there was a concern about sharing information in front of potential competitors. And heck, we cant really blame them.
SJVCEO staff quickly realized that the agenda would need an ASAP course correction!
Instead of trying to pry project information out of reluctant participants staff focused on what can make a difference: collaboration. We needed to take a large step back and look at the bigger picture.
Deanna Fernandez, SJVCEO’s project coordinator, diligently listened and took note as to where the workshop attendees felt she should go to start mapping out the jobs. The consensus was that many of the barriers to finding these opportunities often lie in the public policy infrastructure. It is believed that approximately 40% of the permitted projects actually come to fruition, but identifying which ones is like finding a needle in the haystack. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and a unified solution found. The US Department of Energy has funded the SunShot Solar Initiative to combat policy barrier issues in the solar field, but what about other issues like locating potential employment opportunities in an effort to prepare a qualified workforce? Can a clearinghouse be developed to inform decision makers of potential economic opportunities? Deanna intends to begin research on the job market by contacting database management firms as well as each of the eight county offices of the San Joaquin Valley to obtain input and guidance. Other resources that will be utilized are the Great Valley Center in Modesto and the various workforce investment boards. This is, of course, in addition to targeted industry leaders in the clean and renewable energy fields.
The SJVCEO prides itself on taking a holistic approach when it comes to clean energy in the Valley. Our air quality is unhealthy. Our population is desperate for work. Our workforce is under-trained It seems obvious that the C6 project is where the focus needs to be if the San Joaquin Valley intends to stay competitive and economically stable.
The SJVCEO’s resident wellness expert and certified holistic health coach, Maureen Hoff, puts her personal passion for health at the heart of the issue: “Something has to be done. Maybe you are already a top-paid executive, swing a bit more to the right, or just don’t believe in global warming so the idea of clean energy jobs seems silly. One thing we can all agree on is the fact that our air quality, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley, is nothing short of horrendous and our health is suffering. How can we expect to live full and satisfying lives when the air we breathe is full of toxins and particulate matter that poisons our lungs and diminishes the healthy possibilities of outside activities? Our environment is a huge part of our overall health and wellness. If we don’t begin working collectively for a solution, ensuring the duplication of efforts is eliminated, we will continue to suffer.” Suffer we will. From poor air quality, high surface ozone, non-attainment fines and the economic suppression the Valley has suffered from over the past twenty-five plus years, the outlook is grim. With projected growth rates over the next 20 years significantly higher in the San Joaquin Valley than for other parts of California or the United States (Tadlock Cowan, 2005), these problems are not going away anytime soon.
Barriers aside, the SJVCEO is committed to a positive attitude and restructuring the workforce in the Valley through the C6 efforts. Educators, employers, job-seekers, and the entire community will soon reap the rewards of the collaborative efforts. As the heart of the state, the San Joaquin Valley will serve as the life force that pushes California to its goals and beyond.
For more information related to the SJVCEO or C6 please contact SJVCEO Director, Courtney Kalashian, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-748-0841. You can also visit the following websites: http://sjvcleanenergy.org/ and http://c6.whccd.edu/.
Photo credit: Courtney Kalashian