Job opportunities on the Bishop Paiute Reservation are slim – aside from a small casino, there isn’t much industry in this tourist pass-through town on the eastern side of California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Joseph Lent, like many tribal members, held odd jobs in the construction trade but struggled to find steady work. Then in 2013, nonprofit GRID Alternatives began installing solar on tribal homes through California’s Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes program (SASH), and offered free hands-on installation training to local residents.
“I was really looking for a career,” said Mr. Lent, “and after speaking with GRID’s workforce development team, I recognized the true potential of installing solar systems. I could see how solar could open my job opportunities.”
Mr. Lent volunteered with GRID on five installations on the reservation, learning all he could about solar. When he was finished, he qualified to be hired for paid work by GRID Alternatives subcontractors who were being brought on to complete additional installations for the tribe. Under the SASH program, subcontractors are required to hire a job trainee for each installation they do.
Mr. Lent was hired for 19 SASH installations with subcontractor Highpoint Solar before being offered a full-time position. Now he works with the company installing solar all over the Sierras, finally getting the career he dreamed of. “Solar kind of chose me,” Mr. Lent said.
The SASH program has provided over 1700 paid workdays for jobseekers through the subcontractor program, providing a pathway to employment for people like Mr. Lent all over the state.