Solar Project Helps Veterans Gain Green Job Skills

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to present this column via a cross post from partner Sierra Club. Author credit goes to Tom Valtin, and all images are credited to Sierra Club.

Three Bay Area veterans committed to building sustainable communities and helping other vets make the transition to civilian jobs raised more than $7,000 to help sponsor a two-day, hands-on training for local veterans to install a solar electric system on the home of a low-income family in San Francisco’s Bayview district.


Among them was Sierra Club staffer and US Naval Academy graduate Alicia Washkevich (above at left). Working with former Marine Ian Thomson (second from right) and fellow Navy vet Brian Wiechowski, the three raised money through individual contributions and donations from the Sierra Club and Sungevity, a residential solar company.

The two-day training, timed to coincide with Veteran’s Day, was organized byGRID Alternatives, a solar installation training company operating throughout California, and Swords to Plowshares, a community-based non-profit that helps make the transition to civilian life easier by providing counseling, job training, housing, legal assistance and other services to veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anthony Sordini, director of Veterans Green Career Pathways for Swords to Plowshares, is second from left, above.


“The partnership between Swords to Plowshares and GRID Alternatives addresses the veteran unemployment crisis while promoting renewable technologies that will help us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels,” says Thomson, a GRID Alternatives board member. Below, the Bayview district resident whose house received the solar retrofit.


The transition from military culture to the civilian workforce can be challenging. “Veterans can be unsure about how to apply and interview for a job, and employers are often hesitant to hire vets who lack experience in civilian jobs,” says Sordini. “We’re trying to bridge the gap for veterans pursuing employment in the green economy.”


Washkevich, an oceanographer and a decorated Director of Training & Education while in the Navy, joined the Sierra Club staff in 2009 to oversee the Club’s National Youth & Veteran’s Programs. “I had a bit of a tough transition from military to civilian life myself,” she says. “After seeing first-hand the link between energy and national security, and spending time outdoors in nature after deployments to decompress, I just knew I wanted to work in the new green economy after my military service.”

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