Albert Horsley’s future seemed bleak and directionless. A resident of Portland, he spent his early twenties drifting in and out of homelessness. Many nights, he slept under a bridge. Community college classes didn’t pan out. Stints in low-wage jobs didn’t last.
Then he caught a break.
In 2010, a local youth and family center told him about a training program offered by the Laborers union; they were weatherization courses, teaching trainees to become installers and technicians for retrofitting projects. Albert entered the program, got certified, and was hired by an energy company to do work as part of the Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP) project.
Albert is now working full-time and earning $15.23 an hour plus health benefits, and says “this opportunity has been phenomenal because I’ve been able to get ahead rather than racing to catch up. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning. I’m focused on doing everything right because build a reputation based on what you do.”
His is just one of many success stories to emerge from the CEWP initiative, which recently completed its 500th retrofitting. Launched in 2009, the program provides help to low-income homeowners for energy-efficiency projects, allowing them to pay for their improvements over time through their utility bills.
Green For All, recognizing the enormous potential of this initiative, led a multi-stakeholder coalition to create and implement a “High Road Agreement” for this project — ensuring that opportunities for quality, career-track jobs are available to a qualified, diverse workforce.
That’s exactly what has happened. Take a look at these statistics (numbers as of March 1st, 2011 when only 434 homes had been retrofitted):
- 49.5% of the trade/technical hours were worked by people of color.
- 22.9% of the pilot dollars went to minority- and women-owned firms.
- 381 construction workers were employed on pilot projects.
- $24.66/hour was the average wage, far above the $8.73 living wage for an adult in Portland.
People are working. Homes are becoming energy efficient. The circle of opportunity is widening. And, CEWP will build on these results by expanding into a statewide effort, Clean Energy Works Oregon, to upgrade over 6,000 homes by 2014.
If past successes are any indication, the project will continue to give talented people like Albert Horsley a fair shot at quality jobs that help build an energy efficient future.
Our communities deserve nothing less.