Opportunities for employment 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 Sierras. Joseph Lent, like many tribal members, held odd jobs in the construction trade but struggled to find steady work, which lead him to the tribe’s TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance) office. The Bishop Paiute Tribe has a long-standing partnership with GRID Alternatives to give volunteers hands-on experience in solar installation and expose them to career paths in the growing industry.
“When I applied for jobs, they would tell me I lacked the experience and certifications to get the job,” Joseph said. “I was really looking for a career 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.”
As part of the Single Family Solar Affordable Housing (SASH) Program, GRID Alternatives launched the Sub-Contractor Partnership Program (SPP). Through the program we partner with for-profit solar companies to install in areas that are remote, like Bishop, and to further the green jobs training component of SASH. SPP requires the sub-contracting partner to hire a job trainee – usually someone who has gone through our volunteer program – for each project they complete for GRID.
Joseph volunteered with GRID on five installations on the Reservation, learning all he could about ins-and-outs of the solar electric system. That hands-on experience paid off, and he worked with a local SPP, Highpoint Solar on 19 paid job-training opportunities. That led directly to a full time position with Highpoint Solar, where he now works all over the Sierras, including the Reservation, installing solar.
The Sub-Contractor Partnership Program has provided over 1700 paid workdays for jobseekers, and the program continues to provide a pathway to employment for many of job trainees like Joseph.