Jesse Garcia and quote


According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Futures Study, in order to achieve the nation’s goal of an inclusive, equitable transition to a fully decarbonized electricity system by 2035, the solar workforce will need to grow from about 250,000 today to up to 1.5 million workers by then.


On SOMAH installation projects across California, motivated trainees are stepping up to achieve occupational competence, make industry connections and contribute to their communities with solar.

In the case of Jesse Garcia, a former SOMAH job trainee in the San Francisco Bay Area, his experience built upon already acquired construction skills. After training, he was able to use his SOMAH experience to land a full-time job as a solar installer at Sun Light & Power, a California Certified Benefit Corporation solar business headquartered in Berkely, Calif.

Jesse got his start in construction trades at Young Community Developers (YCD), a San Francisco-based nonprofit job training organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty for communities of color.

“Every individual has a right to generational, sustainable economic mobility,” said Mitchell Smith, YCD’s senior technical training director and a member of SOMAH’s Job Training Organization Taskforce.

At YCD, Jesse completed a 12-week Environmental Protection Agency technician program focused on toxic materials remediation. Through this training, he gained experience with worksite safety and certifications for handling sensitive materials such as lead, mold and asbestos. Beyond technical skills, the experience he gained was an introduction to career paths available in the construction trades, including electrical and solar work.


“Jesse was very eager to learn, which made him stand out in his training program. He wanted to get hands on as soon as possible, but also showed patience. He was eager to learn a skill to make a career out of an opportunity, not just a job.”  – Mitchell Smith, YCD senior technical training director


Even after Jesse completed his initial training, the YCD team remained committed to his success and stayed in contact with him. When they learned of a SOMAH job training opportunity, Smith was quick to refer Jesse.

Once registered as a job trainee, the SOMAH workforce development team facilitated the recruitment and placement procedures for Jesse to connect with the solar installation project contractor Sun Light & Power.

“The SOMAH team helped me out in this process by communicating with me a lot,” Jesse said. “They helped me out with getting ready and prepared, gave me all this information about the job site and who was going to be contacting me. It was a really great experience,” he explained.

Though he had visited a solar installation and had a basic foundation for construction work, Jesse found his first week on the SOMAH job site was a major learning experience. He worked on each step of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, including mounting railing, pulling conduit and managing wiring. Although there was a great deal of information to learn in a short amount of time, he excelled by asking lots of questions and eliciting feedback from the project’s supervisor and his fellow coworkers.

Jesse said, “It was a lot of information within one week to pick up.” But the crew he was working with kept him motivated because, “they wanted to get it done, and I wanted to help be a part of that.”

Josh Flasher, solar PV superintendent at Sun Light & Power, recognized Jesse was eager to improve and receptive to feedback. “He had a great attitude and work ethic, he wanted to learn, which is most important. They [trainees] don’t have to know everything or be super polished, they just need to have a drive to learn and interest in the career.”

Jesse’s time as a job trainee evolved from a single project installation to a full-time position as a solar installer at Sun Light & Power. SOMAH proved to be a unique tool for recruitment where both the trainee and the contractor could experience a trial period of working together.

“Resumes and interviews give limited information. On-the-job experience provides a more realistic view of how they [trainees] would perform as an installer,” Flasher said.

In speaking about his training and current job experiences, Jesse expressed gratitude to YCD, Smith and SOMAH for opening doors to new career opportunities and said he sees a long-term future working in solar.

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