Going Green in Denver

If you want to get a glimpse of the future, talk to Riki Escamilla.

This super-energetic Denver woman has big dreams for a “prosperous future for me, and my family.” I have no doubt she’ll get there.

Riki is participating in the Denver Green Jobs Initiative, a terrific program that provides free green jobs training to the unemployed, underemployed, veterans, women, and minorities. Its goal is simple: create a career path in high-growth green industries including solar energy technology, green construction, energy efficiency and weatherization, and green job administration and sales.

As a part of the program, Riki is learning about energy efficiency inspection – a job with high-growth potential and one that is perfectly suited for her skills and interests. Her first step on the road to success was meeting with a Denver Green Jobs Initiative intake specialist, who assessed her employment goals and job readiness. The program also provides life skills education to help ensure Riki can succeed at work and at home.

I met Riki on Wednesday during my tour of the Denver Green Jobs Initiative. I had a chance to sit in on one of the life-skills classes as well as one of the green construction courses. I was impressed not only by the enthusiasm of the students but by the instructors as well. They all believe, like Riki, that the future is green.

During my visit I also met with people behind the scenes who are making sure that Riki can reach her potential. Staff at the Denver Green Jobs Initiative have set an ambitious goal: they want to train 500 people from the local community in green job occupations over the next two years. Better yet, they plan to place at least 320 in employment opportunities or apprenticeships.

Denver and Colorado as a whole are really taking an interest in green industries. Several employers have already reached out to the Denver Green Jobs Initiative as a pipeline for several planned transportation, retrofitting, and green construction projects.

Denver is investing in Riki and I’m proud that the Department of Labor is doing the same though our investment in the Denver Green Jobs Initiative. This program received over $3.6 million from the Department of Labor as part of the Pathways out of Poverty Initiative. That’s part of a larger recovery act initiative – totaling $500 million – to fund workforce development projects promoting economic growth and preparing workers for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

During my visit I was very pleased to learn that the Denver Green Jobs Initiative is working to ensure that green jobs are also safe jobs. As part of the training, instructors offer courses that emphasize hazard identification, avoidance, control, and prevention – all of which help workers create safer green construction sites.

Since my days in the California State Legislature I have fought for funding for green jobs training and when I was in Congress I offered the Green Jobs Act. Back then people often were puzzled when I would talk about Green Jobs. Nobody seemed to know what they were.

Thankfully, other’s “got it.” The President is obviously one of them - and so is Riki. As she told me during my visit, her future green career doesn’t just enable her, it empowers her.

For more information about the U.S. Department of Labor’s Green Jobs grantees, visit www.dol.gov/green

Hilda Solis at Denver Green Jobs Initiative

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis visits with students at the Denver Green Jobs Initative. July 7, 2010.

Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor

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