A green construction partnership might be bringing a wave of new jobs to Harlem.
Community Board 9 is working with the Horticultural Society of New York and STRIVE, an agency that provides job training for chronically unemployed groups, to give Harlem residents free green construction training and opportunities for jobs in the field. CB9 will serve as a link between Harlem residents and the two groups, helping them tailor their training programs to residents’ needs.
After years of trying to launch a green construction program, CB9 member Savona Bailey-McClain successfully reached out to the Horticultural Society last summer, sparking the new partnership. STRIVE, which is based in East Harlem, joined soon after.
Larry Jackson, the director of programs at STRIVE, said that while there are “some logistical things that we have to look at,” the partnership is promising.
“The meetings have been good, the resources are there, the commitments are there,” Jackson said.
To meet the requirements of the grant that funds its part of the program, STRIVE can only train people who are currently receiving food stamps. In addition to being on food stamps, participants are required to pass basic reading and math tests and must be able to lift 50 pounds.
Bailey-McClain said that the program will help people “on the lower end of the economic food chain” who need to learn basic office skills.
“This is great, because now we can really help people where they are, [and] educationally as well as vocationally boost up their skills,” she said.
The organizations are now conducting the first phase of the training program. STRIVE, which started its three-month portion of the program with an orientation last Friday, is focusing on work in energy auditing and efficiency, hazardous waste removal, confined-entry space training, and disaster preparedness. Participants will also be trained to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
Bailey-McClain believes there is great potential for green construction jobs in West Harlem, because many old buildings need to be renovated to meet new legal standards. The training will help residents get jobs with contractors and landscape architects, Bailey-McClain said.
“We’re offering people a variety of trainings so they can fit different types of needs,” she said. “We are able to give ourselves the flexibility that we need to fit the people in our community.”
The idea behind the program is continuous training, Bailey-McClain added.
“We’re trying to introduce to people a lot of green training, so they have options to get different types of work and they have real career options,” she said.
CB9 will also partner with various organizations to offer job opportunities specifically for local residents involved in the training program.
“When people were talking about green before, people could not visualize what that could mean,” Bailey-McClain said. “It’s starting to spread and people are understanding it and seeing it.”
For now, STRIVE is running its traditional job-training programs as part of the partnership. One difference, though, is that many of the participants have been referred to STRIVE by CB9.
“There’s value that a community is proactive and aggressive and being consistent with the green movement,” Jackson said.
He also noted that STRIVE and the Horticultural Society are working together to develop a program that is customized for CB9.
The Horticultural Society will most likely take over the program in the summer. According to Dwaine Lee, the society’s director of special projects, the outline for its training emphasizes preparation for green infrastructure jobs, such as managing storm water with rain barrels and rain gardens.
“Employing people from those communities to do the work and giving them the opportunity … this is the emerging paradigm, this is the world that needs to emerge, and [that] we want to support,” Lee said.