Eric Walker, Allen Shropshire, Ronald Moore, Maurice McDowell, De Juan Scott, Josiah Edwards, Corey Hayden, Jackson McDowell, Adam Wiley, Tayvon McFadden, Christian Shackelford and Chris Woodhull
Build it Green (BIG), a program hosted in partnership by Build Me a World and green|spaces, held a graduation ceremony honoring the first class of 10 graduates.
Since January, a group of 10 trainees has been meeting weekly for 12 hours per week.
Over the course of that time, the trainees spent six weeks focused on community engagement, personal development, and job readiness training along with six weeks of technical training in weatherization and community sustainability. They also received weekly job shadowing and off-site job training opportunities through many community partnerships including Tennessee Solar Solutions and Insulation Unlimited.
"This program has taught me a lot, not only about what it takes to save energy, but what it takes to thrive instead of just survive," said graduate Corey Hayden.
On Thursday, nine of the 10 graduates have employment and the tenth will continue to work with green|spaces and Build Me a World. BIG is based off Stan Johnson’s workforce development program, Socially Equal Energy Efficiency Development (SEEED), based in Knoxville.
"The BIG Program should go down in history as one of the biggest and most prosperous programs I've ever been a part of and should be considered one of the best opportunities for young men in the community of Chattanooga,” said graduate Maurice McDowell.
BIG aims to generate pathways out of poverty for young adults through job readiness training, community organizing and outreach training, and technical training in the home energy field. Affordability of utilities is one of the greatest challenges to low income neighborhoods in Chattanooga. This program brings solutions to issues of energy efficiency in low-income areas as well as serve as a pipeline for employment into the green economy. BIG utilizes a unique blend of community outreach, personal development, and technical training to create workforce-ready young adults.
"This program was the best thing I got into and it helped me with the personal stuff in my life, too," said graduate Eric Walker.
If companies are interested participating for the next round by serving as a guest speaker, offering job shadowing opportunities or open to interviewing trainees, they can contact Christian Shackelford, Empower Program coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next round of trainees will start late Summer 2018.