Solar-Powered Success

Habitat for Humanity partnership offers troubled youth the opportunity to to learn job skills

Back Web Only Dec 11, 2015 By Robin Epley

To certain young adults, the rising sun is no longer just a metaphorical promise of a new day, but rather a literal chance for a new start in life. The very light the sun provides is working as the harbinger of opportunities and career skills for students who have been in the dark.

Habitat for Humanity of Yuba/Sutter and SUNworks of Roseville have teamed up to harness sun power and create real job opportunities for local young adults. Habitat for Humanity’s YouthBuild program helps 18 to 24-year-olds earn high school diplomas, learn a skill and give back to their communities.

Earlier this year, YouthBuild received a 10-thousand watt solar panel for the roof of the Yuba/Sutter Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore in Marysville. Donated by SUNworks, a solar energy equipment provider based in Roseville, the panel could save the Habitat for Humanity chapter approximately 20 percent of their yearly electrical consumption. It also offered members of YouthBuild, who helped install the panel, the chance to learn valuable job skills.  

By participating in the program, SUNworks CEO Abe Emard says the company wants to help train and encourage the next generation of solar workers. He even worked with the youth group to help install the panel last October.

“It was amazing,” Emard says of the installation day experience. “The kids can’t wait to enroll and learn more. A lot of them are very excited about the industry. They’re excited to be a part of this.”

The young adults in the program, who come from across the two counties, have struggled — many have been in trouble with the law or at school. Humanity Yuba/Sutter CEO Joseph Hale describes it as “a situation where they’re only able to fail once.” Many participants have “been on probation, raised in situations where there was violence, the foster system, jail,” he continues.

One of the best things for the students, he says, is that they’re getting involved with and giving back to their community. All of their YouthBuild projects are for low-income families just like theirs, says Hale.

“They get to go into the community and help build a home,” Hale says. “It’s incredible to register the changes in them throughout the year, and our partners make it possible to provide these opportunities and give them self-respect.”

In addition to tangible work skills and certifications, he believes the students also learn soft skills: teamwork, confident decision-making, and the ability to see a project through to completion.The students in the program also have the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or GED while also receiving the job training. “It gives them more tools in their tool belt,” he says.

SUNworks, in addition to their donation and installation of the panel, teaches monthly classes to YouthBuild students on the solar construction business, including sales education and installation training courses.

“In 2020, the solar industry is expected to be a $200-billion industry,” says Emard. “[It is] going to need educated and trained employees. Our intent is to employ [YouthBuild participants] at some point in the future.”

Hale says he believes solar construction is already an extremely important business. Skilled workers are poised to become even more valuable, which is something his YouthBuild students can benefit from by early introduction. “Solar is something really, really important in the construction field these days,” he says.

Extensive training at the ReStore facility began on Dec. 4.

“I think the reason why these students are so excited is that they want something more,” says Emard. “Jobs have meaning to them. It really appeals to students of millennial ages.”

For more information on Yuba/Sutter Habitat For Humanity’s YouthBuild program, visit their website. For more on the need for skilled labor education, pick up our January issue next month.


Tim Chaney (not verified)December 28, 2015 - 11:54pm

Before start any kind of work we should first estimate the success rate of that work and most probably people are unable to get success while working. Here we can get some facts for solar success and I am sure this work will give suitable inspiration on how to get success in every work.

Chris Le (not verified)January 11, 2016 - 4:45pm

More companies should do things like this. All to often, I see youths who dropped out of school struggle to survive. This is something great to spark their interests in an emerging field! What about farming? I'd love to see how we're getting kids interested in farming and using tech.