Brooklyn Workforce Innovations

Job training opportunity in the solar industry, by Nathan Weiser

Rebecca Marriott, the Director of Training at Brooklyn Workforce Innovations.

Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI) will be sponsoring a six-week program with Hurricane Sandy funding for Solar Panel Installation Training and construction.

This program, which is slated to start the end of January, is targeted at people who live in Red Hook. Anyone 18 or older can participate, and they will take 15 to 20 people out of the 25 to 30 that come in for tryouts.

The goal is that Red Hook residents will make up all of the students in the program. People from outside the neighborhood can apply, however, the program will make sure that they give a priority to residents of Red Hook.  

According to Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, the US solar energy market is booming and now is the time to learn the skills you will need to start a career in Solar Panel Installation.

There will be an information session at 10:30 am on January 9, January 16 and on January 23 at Red Hook Initiative (767 Hicks Street). Those late to the information session will not be admitted. 

At the Red Hook Library (7 Wolcott Street), there will be an information session on January 11. The session will begin at 4:00 pm and you can call 347-987-3920 for any additional information.

“People come and apply there, and they fill out an application once they learn about our program,” Rebecca Marriott, the Director of Training at Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, said. “Then they take a math and reading test, which does not necessarily bar them from attending, it is just to find out where their math and reading scores are.”

In terms of the applicants to the program, they are looking for people who have an 8th grade or above math and reading level, but they will take applicants who are almost there. The 25-30 people who they want to come to the tryouts will be able to come to see if they like the program and find out if it is the right fit. 

“We are hoping for 8th grade level math and reading when we test,” Marriott said. “Since we do so much construction, math and measurement people really have to be able to pick up on that and because solar installation is kind of a difficult concept to read through they have to be able to read a lot of stuff.”

It is also necessary that everyone in the program not be afraid of heights.

“That is usually the first question I ask everybody, if they are afraid of heights, because when you see carpentry and electrical people are attracted to those kinds of courses especially the OSCIA certification and the scaffolding certification, but for people to do this work they have to get up high sometimes,” Marriott said.

Various skills that will be acquired during this course include basic carpentry, an intro to electrical wiring, solar panel installation, construction math and tool usage. 

This six-week course will allow you to receive a stipend ($1,000) while you earn the industry certifications from North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and Occupational Safety and health Administration (OSHA), as well as a four-hour Scaffolding Certification. 

Everyone in the program must be at least 18, a low-income Red Hook resident, eligible to legally work in the US and able to lift at least 50 pounds.

An incentive for being involved with this Solar Panel Installation program is that there will be a stipend. Everyone who completes the program will get a stipend of $1,000 upon graduating from the six-week course.

“If they don’t graduate, then they do not get the stipend,” Marriott said. “It is a really good opportunity. None of our {other} training programs provide stipends.”

Brooklyn Workforce Innovations also provides commercial driving, television and film production assistance, wood working, cable installation and a New York City Housing Authority resident training academy programs.

This training program will take place on Monday-Friday and it will either go from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm or from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. They have different activities that are already scheduled and vendors that will provide certifications including the NABCEP and OSHA certifications.

After the program begins, there will be 15 days of training. Some of the training will be at Red Hook Initiative and then they have a vendor, Solar One, which will also be doing training.

“They are going to be doing carpentry, electrical and solar panel installation training there (Solar One),” Marriott said. “People really get to do a lot of hands on practice with the technology and learning about the theory.”

Marriott went on to add more about the specifics and principals that will be taught.

“There is a lot of construction math and measurement that we teach, a lot of soft skills development and situational judgment and work place issues specific to solar,” Marriott added. “It is going to be really fun.”

After conversations that Brooklyn Workforce Innovations has had with employers, they decided to have this six-week course end in the middle of March because that is when installers will be hired.  

“The consensus is that a lot of people do not get up on roofs in the winter because it is slippery and there is snow on roofs but when it starts to be springtime is when they start to hire installers,” Marriott said.

The goal is to introduce everyone in the program to employers before they graduate. The program has hired a consultant that is connected to different solar employers in Brooklyn to get the students more involved in training and perhaps provide some classes.

“We are hoping to equip people with the skills to be able to install solar panels,” Marriott said. “But if they are interested in doing carpentry and things like that they can often get jobs to those areas as well because of the certification and the practice that they get.”

Most of the employers that BWI partners with do residential and some do commercial installations. They are willing to look anywhere for people that are looking for installers and this program will try to prepare the 18 and over Red Hook residents with a range of skills.

“We are giving a basic understanding of how the power system works as well as the installation part of it, so they really get an overall view of the industry,” Marriott said. “The program is not construction focused so much, but definitely it has a lot of construction training that as well.”

The formation of this program is collaboration of four different organizations. Brooklyn Workforce Innovations worked with Red Hook Initiative, Southwest Brooklyn Development Corporation and Good Shepherd Services. They also did some sustainability training in Red Hook.

They looked at many topics for this program and the research that they did pointed towards concentrating on solar. This program will be a bit longer than it might have been based on a new certification that will augment the course.

“It is going to be longer since we are adding the four-hour scaffolding certification,” Marriott added. “It is just helpful for people to have and be able to take the skills to other areas of construction and installation.”

Brooklyn Workforce Innovations is based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the programs there work with employers at the Navy Yard, the Army Terminal and Industry City. The focus on the programs that Marriott runs include industrial manufacturing and construction.

“We are a partnership to provide training to tenants here but also part of my project is to deal with the Sandy recovery partnership that we have,” Marriott said.

People are welcome to walk in to the information session, they don’t have to be referred from anywhere. Marriott also added that a person with previous experience in construction would make a great candidate because they will gain even more experience.

According to Marriott, interested applicants can apply who have no knowledge of solar panels or the construction field but are interested in learning about construction. They will leave with a solid set of skills after finishing the six weeks.

“I think solar panel installation is something that is definitely on the rise and is very popular in terms of development and policies in New York City,” Marriott said. “It is an exciting sector to work in.”


One Comment

  1. Stephanie santiago

    I am extremely interested on taking this Training program. Is it only available for Red Hook or New York residents?

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