Rising Sun Announces Women-Only Construction Class Bridging the Gender Gap in the Building Trades

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, California – March 7, 2016 – Rising Sun Energy Center’s Green Energy Training Services (GETS) program will begin its women-only workforce development cohort, Women Build, on Monday, March 14, 2016. Women Build will be the first and only women’s pre-apprenticeship class offered in the Bay Area. GETS is a job training program for adults who are interested in starting a career in construction, energy efficiency or solar, and union apprenticeships.

Green Energy Training Services has offered a variety of training courses since 2009. GETS’ impact on its more than 500 training participants has been impressive. Over 75% of program graduates have been placed in employment.  Recognizing the lack of women enrolled in each training cohort, in 2015, the GETS team began envisioning an all-female cohort to support women interested in careers in the building trades, and those seeking a pathway towards a union membership. After winning a grant from California’s Workforce Accelerator Fund, the program was greenlit and Rising Sun and a host of partners inclusive of Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, the City of Berkeley, Tradeswomen, Inc. began designing the class.

Women Build comes as California’s construction workforce is booming. California estimates 34% of construction job growth over the next seven years. While women make up almost half of the overall workforce, they represent less than 3% of the construction workforce, and only 2% of construction apprentices in the state (National Women’s Law Center, 2014). Women Build will work to fill this gap, specifically addressing the skill and support needs of women, hands-on job training leading to an industry-recognized certification, as well as guidance and tips from female union leaders in the field.

Participants begin with an 8-week training intensive at Rising Sun’s Berkeley facility. After completing training, they benefit from ongoing case management and job placement assistance, as well as alumni events and resources. All participants must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent (foreign degrees accepted), have a basic understanding of English, and be eligible to work in the United States. Interested applicants should contact Melvin Parham, the GETS Case Manager, at 510-665-1501 ext. 202.

About Rising Sun

Since 1994, Rising Sun Energy Center (Rising Sun) is a Berkeley-based non-profit with a mission to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities. With a focus on under-served populations, Rising Sun provides youth and low-income adults with meaningful training and employment opportunities in the growing energy efficiency sector, while delivering no-cost energy upgrades to thousands of households each year.


About Women Build

Women Build, Rising Sun’s pilot all women pre-apprenticeship program, is made possible by support from the California Workforce Development Board’s Workforce Accelerator Fund and through partnership with the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board, the Workforce Benefits Administration of the Alameda County Social Services Agency, the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, the City of Berkeley, Tradeswomen, Inc., the West Oakland Job Resource Center, and Rubicon Programs.


Marrion Johnson

Communications and Development Coordinator

Rising Sun Energy Center

510-665-1501 ext 106




Rising Sun Spotlight: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

By Marrion Johnson

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is thinking outside of the box when it comes to investing in a sustainable future for our planet. Berkeley Lab is a leading member of the national laboratory system and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a diverse range of scientific disciplines in energy. As a national resource and an institution dedicated to pursuing profound scientific discovery, they understand the power of fundamental knowledge, and that if given the tools, each of us can make an impact in combatting climate change.

Armando Viramontes, the manager of State and Community Relations, believes that building relationships with local organizations in the green energy space is a great way to deepen the laboratory’s impact. “I wanted to expand our outreach to local organizations doing work close to the applied side of energy research. Not everyone is going to pursue a career as a scientist. But there are people looking for job opportunities and careers to install the next generation of solar panels and electric vehicle batteries or energy retrofit a home.”

That’s when he realized the advantage of collaborating with Rising Sun. “[You’re] targeting an important category of students, working with communities that need opportunities, and developing skills for employment and early career workforce training. I wanted to focus on those needs in our outreach.” Elaborating on Lawrence Berkeley’s focus in community investment, Armando says “We also work with local public schools as part of our science education program. For the past 11 years, every 5th grader in Berkeley public schools has had an opportunity to come to the Lab for a field trip that includes hands-on science activities, interactions with science professionals, and a tour of one of our unique facilities. Our efforts in educational outreach are a high priority for the Lab as well.”

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Pictured: Jodi Pincus, Rising Sun’s Exec. Dir., Armando Viramontes, and CYES youth. Photo Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Photographer

Pictured here: Jodi Pincus Executive Director Rising Sun, Armando Viramontes Manager State & Community Relations Berkeley Lab
Armando concluded making a strong case for fundamental exploration in science. “The basic science done at Berkeley Lab has transformational power. Its important work to do at the fundamental level particularly at this point of time in light of the disastrous effects of runaway climate change… energy efficiency or installing a new light bulb isn’t going to be enough. We need to enhance renewable energy technology and invent new energy systems to support our lives, and significantly change our relationship and our impact on our planet.”

That sounds like an excellent plan.

To learn more about the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, visit their website: http://www.lbl.gov/

GETS Blog: An Unexpected Yet Amazing Journey

By Linda Chen, GETS Cohort, Fall 2015

Three months ago I was unemployed and unsure of my next step, a former teacher and baker with zero experience in construction, yet I had aspirations of becoming a carpenter. Today, I’m eight weeks into the GETS program, a tape-measuring, hammer-wielding, saw-operating badass, with a polished résumé, and a much clearer picture of where I see construction and solar fitting into my life.

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It’s been a long journey, full of important lessons and realizations, and an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m not gonna lie–nine weeks seemed like quite the investment. Back in August, I found myself at the West Oakland Job Resource Center, asking how I could get into the Carpenter’s Union, knowing that I had a passion for working with wood. I met Alex Francois (Founder/Director of B.U.I.L.D. Bay Area) for the first time that day, who introduced me to Rising Sun Energy Center’s GETS program. It came highly recommended, AND he told me they were going to be having an all-women’s cohort very soon. After hearing that, I jumped at the opportunity! I called right away, and was quickly able to schedule a time to come in for an info session, a pre-test, and then an interview with Melvin Parham, Case Manager extraordinaire at Rising Sun.

I was given the opportunity to either wait until March to be a part of GETS’ first all-women cohort, or to join the next co-ed cohort, where I was told there would be at least a few other women. Wanting to complete the program sooner rather than later, I chose the latter. But imagine my surprise when I showed up the first day and realized I was the only womyn in my cohort!

For the first couple of weeks, I felt super isolated. Everyday, I felt like I had to prove myself ten times over, and struggled with finding my voice and a sense of belonging in such a male-dominated cohort, in an already male-dominated trade. All of that changed when I was invited by Elena Foshay, GETS’ awesome Program Director, to attend this year’s Tradeswomen, Inc. Celebration Dinner. Being amongst so many powerful women that night, who had dedicated their lives to working and paving the road for other women in the building trades was not only refreshing, but empowering.

Early on in the evening, there was an older woman (pictured below), who sweetly invited me to sit at her table. I smiled, not knowing who she was, graciously accepted, and we proceeded to have the most tender exchange. She held my hand, encouraged me not to give up, and told me a story about how many years ago she met this small group of women in the trades who were struggling to find a safe and consistent space to meet. Eventually, due to her connections at the Department of Labor she was able to provide them with a space to convene and unite. Little did I know, I was talking to the amazing co-founder of Tradeswomen, Inc., Madeline Mixer.

I left that night with a sense of renewed hope. I held onto her words as I trekked forward through the next few weeks. What made all the difference from then on were the relationships that I started building with my GETS classmates:

Linda blog 1

Armando and I got to weather-strip windows together on our day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Devoncia and I teamed up many times throughout the program to tackle class presentations for OSHA 10, energy efficiency, foundations, as well as a mini-home renovation for the large, wooden structure that we built together as a class.

George, Eric, Armando, David, and I spent a sunny Saturday together volunteering for GridAlternatives’ Solarthon, where we helped install solar panels for a low-income family out in Richmond.

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And then there were others, like Q, who I had the opportunity to work with on Tuesdays and Thursdays during math class. And Shaq, who I would never trust with a sawzall, but who I could always trust to provide me with a helping hand whenever I least expected it.

As we found ourselves working closely in small groups to complete big projects such as re-roofing Grid Alternatives’ practice roofs, doing home energy audits, framing an 8’x6.5’x8’ room in the workshop, and going on field trips to places like the Iron Workers training facility, we grew tighter as a cohort, and I was subsequently able to find that voice and sense of belonging that I didn’t think I’d ever have during the beginning of program.

Now that we’re almost at the end of our nine-weeks, I want to give a huge shout out to the amazing support team here at Rising Sun, who have been vital to our sustainability throughout this whole process. Our instructors, John (Carpentry), Laura (Energy Efficiency), and Mich (Math) were patient, caring, kind, and knowledgeable in their fields. Our professional development, job readiness, & case management superheroes, Elena, Melvin, Alex, and Makena held it down for us, and made themselves available whenever we needed their support. Also, Jodi, Alison, Marrion, and the countless number of other Rising Sun staff/community members who offered their time and expertise to help us with mock interviews, and to offer us tips in the areas of job retention and self-promotion. It’s been a team effort! And it’s been so nice to be a part of a program where the staff truly cares about your success and holds your well-being in their hearts.

To end this lengthy blog post, I just want to say that we have no way of knowing where life is going to take us. Something that I’ve learned throughout my 28 years of life is that it’s okay not to know. That it’s okay to take chances, and even to change careers if you have to—especially if it means being happier. Whether my future lies in construction, solar, or something else, is yet to be determined. But what I do know, is that the skills and the knowledge that I’ve gained at Rising Sun are invaluable. These almost nine weeks have been life-changing, and an experience that I’ll take with me wherever I go. I’m forever grateful to my cohort and teachers, and hope that others who have even the slightest interest in construction or solar will explore the possibility of getting into the building trades through GETS. I mean really, what have you got to lose?


Rising Sun Spotlight: SunPower

By Marrion Johnson

Here at Rising Sun, we realize the importance and power of partnerships. Uniting with like-minded organizations means addressing environmental change on a multi-tiered front. SunPower’s focus on solar expansion directly aligns with Rising Sun’s goal of empowering people to achieve environmental sustainability for themselves and their communities. SunPower works with homeowners to install solar panels at affordable rates and at $0 down. Their process is easy, affordable, and reliable.

To Renée Solari, SunPower’s Program Manager for Education Services, Rising Sun’s California Youth Energy Services (CYES) program, which employs and empowers hundreds of youth to educate folks and make their homes efficient all at no cost, is right up SunPower’s alley. “We recognize [that] in our aim to support young people to have relationships in solar, solar doesn’t have a place unless we have a strong foothold in energy efficiency. [The] CYES program helps make that connection.”


SunPower has become an important part of our CYES program, providing resources to allow for the training of all of this year’s 180 Energy Specialists to provide solar assessments to homeowners served with the CYES Green House Call service. Last year, CYES piloted the solar assessment program in Antioch, and this year, with SunPower’s support, we were able to provide assessments to homeowners in each of the 20 cities we serve. Over 300 homeowners received a free solar report and those who qualified received a discount through SunPower for installing solar panels onto their homes.

In addition to working with Rising Sun, Renée explains that SunPower is invested in being a support system for STEM students: those interested in science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re in communities that are under-resourced. We provide support to the districts through work-based learning. We have a summer program where high school students get to see what it’s like to work in a solar company. They learn 21st century skills.”

The broad advantages of solar are a driving force for SunPower. According to Renée, “The way in which the US does business and moves forward, it’s not going fast enough to create an economy and life where we’re truly sustainable and equitable. Solar really responds to that. Providing the most basic thing you need. Immediately shifting from a fossil fuel to renewable energy economy. That’s why this is so important to SunPower. By going solar you’re stimulating a local economy.” And that sounds great to us!

Sign up for your free quote today. If you go solar before January 31, 2016, you may be eligible for a $750 rebate on your system. Visit http://www.sunpower.com/risingsun for more information.

GETS Blog: One of the best things that has happened to me

By Alonzo Goodwin, Green Energy Training Services Participant

I’m a Green Energy Training Services (GETS) program participant, and I can honestly say that joining GETS may be one of the best things that have happened in my life. I joined the program after I heard about how the Solar Industry was taking off, and that I could help the planet become greener. GETS has provided me with so many things that I never thought I needed. Because of the program I now have OSHA 10 and MC3 certificates (see below). GETS has even opened many doors for me. Now I know what it takes to join labor unions, and I’ve learned a lot from the OSHA workers’ personal experiences.

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GETS participants at work in the classroom

The program also teaches us about the Carpentry and Solar fields. We met with a couple of supervisors at a carpentry business in Pleasanton, and we got to learn about the business. Personally, I came into the program with no knowledge on carpentry or solar and as a graduate I know more than enough to start a career with an entry level position at a construction or solar company. GETS teaches math, energy efficiency, solar, carpentry, safety laws and a bunch more. Next, I plan on exploring a solar career or joining a Plasterer’s Union. I’m not sure, but I’m glad I have options. If you’re interested in starting a great journey in your life, I would highly recommend joining the GETS program.

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GETS participants at work in the classroom


The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces.

The Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) is a nationally-recognized pre-apprenticeship curriculum developed by the National Building and Construction Trades Council