In partnership with ACONER, Oxfam America, Solar Energy International (SEI) and additional supporters, Bosque Modelo will strengthen the role of women in renewable energy in Puerto Rico by expanding their training program to develop rural Puerto Rican women’s capacity to enter the renewable energy field. This expansion will include complementary activities like the creation of a directory of work opportunities and identifying paid internships in the sector.
25 women from the Bosque Modelo region in Puerto Rico will receive training in the fundamentals of solar energy. Using SEI’s Solar Energy Fundamentals Curriculum, the proposed training will include 100 hours of academic contact and 20 hours of laboratory training. Additionally, this training program will include a math diagnostic assessment prior to course, to ensure adequate preparation and increase retention.
As part of the direct hands-on training, the participants will complete solar installations at three community centers in the Bosque Modelo region, including the Asociación de Pescadores in Guanica and the Villa Comunitaria Crozier community center in Arecibo. The partners aim to hire one project manager and three part time teaching assistants and instructors to fulfill this training program.
To ensure that this program is tailored to the needs of the women participating in the program, Bosque Modelo will provide support with stipends for childcare and travel. Additionally, following the completion of the training program, the partners plan to provide paid internships for participants with solar companies in Puerto Rico. This will be coordinated with support from ACONER (Association of Renewable Energy Contractors and Consultants).
Through this commitment, 25 women in rural areas in Puerto Rico will develop access to new sources of income-generating activities that will also disrupt gender barriers in the field of electricity traditionally dominated by men. February 2020 to March 2020: Recruit program manager; Recruit 25 participants from the western and rural highlands of Puerto Rico; Identify solar energy internships for participants; Create a directory of solar energy enterprises available for partnership to integrate student interns
March 2020 to April 2020: Purchase materials and equipment; Create inventory of materials and project needs
April 2020 to July 2020: Begin solar energy training, roll out practice laboratories and design and provide workshops to participants that provide fiscal literacy and economic development in the area of solar; Complete three solar installations at community centers in Bosque Modelo region; Track attendance and completion rate
July 2020: Evaluate program through quantitative and qualitative analysis of participant satisfaction, change in knowledge and intentions reincorporate results into future training cohorts; Produce written report of evaluation
Quantitative data will include class enrollment numbers, completion of learning modules and other data that would allow for a thorough analysis of learning and participation.
Qualitative data will include participant impressions, opinions, and views of the course and learning opportunities. This data will allow program designers to understand the motivations, thinking, and attitudes around work force development projects.
Approximately 453,000 people and more than 143,000 households live in the region known as Bosque Modelo in Puerto Rico; 54% percent (77,032) of these households live below the poverty level (American Community Survey, 2013).
As part of disaster response following the 2017 hurricane season, Bosque Modelo, an organization named after this region, began working to support the recovery in the largely rural communities it serves. Many of these communities faced severe water shortages due to months without electricity. In the aftermath of the storm, Bosque Modelo found that it was mostly women who organized recovery efforts in their communities and mobilized resources to address the lack of water and power. Yet simultaneously, women have faced greater challenges in finding employment following the storms.
As the solar energy sector expanded in Puerto Rico following the 2017 power outages, Bosque Modelo determined that solar could be an important part of the solution, by providing much-needed clean energy and resilience, and creating new economic opportunities for women in the region. After multiple community conversations, Bosque Modelo decided to launch a program in 2019 to train rural women in solar installations to support their economic mobility and close the gender gap in the electrical sector. Out of 5,500 certified electricians, only 18 are women (Source: Lisa Spickers - ACONER). Out of those 18 certified electrician women, only five have the certification that is required to install solar energy systems.
At the end of the first training course in 2019, a survey demonstrated that 60% of participants requested further technical assistance and support in economic development, in addition to solar training. A combination of technical training, work-based learning and paid opportunities are necessary so that women can access jobs, advance professionally, and reach parity in the growing renewable energy sector.
The partners are seeking additional resources to support the commitment, including funding for the following activities: purchase of a new Solar Energy International license when theirs expires in February 2020; purchase of solar energy equipment for at least three practice installations and lab practices; payment of stipends to promote women's participation in solar energy internship programs; hiring of a part-time Assistant Instructor with engineering, gender perspective, and community work background who will be key to implementing program recommendations and improvements. In addition, the partners are also seeking technical assistance and in-kind equipment donations.
Bosque Modelo and its partners are offering support to other organizations involved in solar training and clean energy economic development in Puerto Rico, such as providing solar installations completed by apprenticeships and sharing best practices. For example, Bosque Modelo is in discussions to provide solar installations in support of cooperative community energy projects. Additionally, Bosque Modelo is participating in CGI’s Solar Workforce Development Working Group in order to share lessons-learned and help scale accessible solar training programs across Puerto Rico.