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Educating Green Builders

Byron Bishop, Director of Workforce Works, emphasizes the need to revitalize America's struggling communities, especially in terms of empowering the next generations of green builders to rethink clean energy strategies.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

On Tuesday July 19th, I was honored with a Champions of Change award, allowing me to join a conversation between Executive Administration officials and various community leaders from the gulf coast region.  Why where we selected to be honored? This incredible group pioneers from the gulf coast have all come up with ways to create jobs within our difficult economic times, while saving energy or by using green/clean energy products within their programs.

This new wave of innovation is fueling a major economic transformation within the United States of the past. The White House is supporting the passion of these honorees, driven by their home-grown ingenuity and entrepreneurship within our local communities. I am the Executive Director of a program called “Workforce.” Our program is focusing on changing the old ways of the construction industry across our nation and abroad.

Workforce provides low-income and special population groups of young adults in New Orleans with green construction skills. The programis helping to replenish the lost professional trades in the area, and it is contributing to the total rebuilding of the New Orleans community, infrastructure, and economy.

Workforce participants, or “team members,” are goal-oriented young adults who want to earn a living wage while learning the latest green construction technologies. The program primarily targets young adults between the ages of 21 and 28 who are living below the federal poverty level.

Workforce offers a wide range of training and educational development courses, from solar-powered homes and indoor air quality to green construction, purchasing, and contracting. Workforce integrates civic and community engagement into its education efforts and offers participants on-the-job training from industry leaders. The Workforce experience bolsters responsibility, pride, confidence, teamwork, and stewardship within the community. Workforce also trains its leaders and supervisors with formal labor management instructional courses. This prepares leaders to effectively manage teams from diverse neighborhoods and cultures.

The Workforce model tackles many things at once; a) It offers a career track or (pathway), b) It offers on-the-job training to disaffected young adults; c) It delivers the energy savings and environmental benefits of high efficiency homes to low-income families; and it helps redevelop communities hit hard by both natural disasters and hard economic times. This program is now set up to be replicated anywhere.

We’ve seen growing momentum in many neighborhoods for energy efficient technology education. Today neighborhoods and community members have begun to realize their power to grow the local clean energy marketplace and build a better future for more families. The leadership and passion for this issue has emerged from other business we are partnering with and faith-based leaders have infused our efforts with immediacy. We work side-by-side with community building leaders like Home Depot, Sader Power and Make It Right as they design outreach strategies to bring more of their neighbors into the fold. We also worked with Make It Right to engage members of the community they serve in creating new green jobs.

Revitalizing America’s struggling communities is one of the most pressing priorities that we face together as a country. As we grapple with the need to rebuild, we’re also turning a corner in terms of the choices we make about energy. Most Americans are now aware of the far-reaching consequences of our energy choices. With Workforce, we educate and empower the next generation of green builders to rethink the strategies of the past and leverage all of the promise the clean energy economy holds to lift up local communities. Using technology and processes powered by limitless innovation, every neighborhood in America deserves the chance to prosper and grow.

Byron Bishop is the Founder and Executive Director of Workforce Works, LLC and a Minister (Co-Founder) with the “Well Ministries”. The organization(s), are based in New Orleans, LA organized around the mission of creating affordable and accessible housing, character-development and life-enhancing values with a strong emphasis on serving others in need who may not had access to working with diverse groups and green construction trades.