APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Green City Force launched a Clean Energy Corps that draws on successful strategies in youth corps and in workforce development to connect young people with the new opportunities for career-track employment in the emerging green economy. Corps members will be on the vanguard of fighting climate change at the local level, contributing to local economic development, while gaining marketable skills and valuable work experience, and learning environmental stewardship. Their efforts will help stimulate the demand for green services and foster a culture of sustainability, ultimately contributing to the expansion of the green economy.
GCF will recruit young people aged 18-24 who hold a GED or high school diploma and have barriers to employment, with a focus on residents of low-income housing. Building on successful relationships developed during our pilot phase, GCF will work with partners in public housing, alternative high schools, GED programs, juvenile justice agencies, community development corporations, CBOs, other service and workforce groups, and youth-service agencies to recruit participants.
Corps members will commit to a 6 month, full-time term, and will earn a stipend, an educational award on the completion of their service, and certification for employment related to building performance. Four days a week, they will be in the field painting rooftops with reflective coating, performing energy, health and safety audits in large multi-family buildings, and educating homeowners about energy efficiency incentive programs. In doing so, they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve community environmental health, and gain valuable training and work experience. Service opportunities will be developed in conjunction with Community Environmental Center, leading provider of energy efficiency services for low-income families in NY State, and other environmental and community development agencies.
One day a week, they will participate in Green City Academy, a rigorous program covering job readiness, career development, technical training, sustainable living and eco-literacy that exposes corps members to a range of career opportunities and leads to certification for entry-level work in energy efficiency. Corps members will be challenged and supported in developing sustainable practices in their own lives. GCF provides Corps Members a stipend, transportation, tutoring in math and literacy, case management, an AmeriCorps educational award, job placement, and follow-up services for three years after graduation. Graduates will be placed in apprenticeships or other advanced technical training, employment, or higher education, and possibly entrepreneurship opportunities. GCF will work with unions, employers, community colleges, and college access programs to develop next-step opportunities.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
The launch and roll-out of the Clean Energy Corps will be implemented over 3 years. 200 young people will be engaged, trained, and mobilized into service. GCF will engage its first cohort as part of the new national Clean Energy Service Corps, a program of AmeriCorps created under the ServeAmerica Act of 2009, in January 2011, through The Corps Network. They will complete ambitious service goals, such as completing thousands of home energy and safety audits or coating hundreds of thousands of square feet of rooftop with reflective coating. We aim to place over 75% of our graduates into employment, further education or training.
The transition to a sustainable economy requires profound changes in the built environment as well as a shift in attitudes and practices on the part of individuals. In New York City, projections show that by 2030 at least 85% of energy usage and carbon emissions will come from buildings that already exist today. (PlaNYC, Energy Report, 2007). Investments in improving building performance at the city and state level will generate new employment opportunities with decent wages and avenues for advancement. At the same time, there is an untapped natural resource - the city's young adults- who are languishing from record unemployment rates. These young adults typically live in the neighborhoods and communities most affected by environmental degradation and pollution.
Studies have shown the effectiveness of the corps model in improving the lives of low-income youth through employment and earnings gains and lower arrest rates, particularly young African-American men (Youth Corps: Promising Strategies for Young People and their Communities, Abt Associates, 1997). At the same time, the corps experience to date has not been fully successful in equipping young people with technical skills and certifications that lead to family-supporting work. An enhanced national service model could provide the on-ramp for young people with weak work histories to compete for new jobs in the emerging field of energy efficiency, as part of high-road strategies to improve energy efficiency in cities. Green City Force is taking advantage of the expansion of AmeriCorps,authorized by theServeAmerica Act of 2009, to put this vision into action in New York City.