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Washington, DC Receives Innovation Award for Green Workforce Development Programs

Friday, August 11, 2017

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Washington, DC was recognized with a 2017 Innovation Award by the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) for the District’s green workforce development programs. The purpose of ECOS is to improve the capability of state environmental agencies and their leaders to protect and improve human health and the environment, and the State Program Innovation Awards is an annual awards program that recognizes outstanding state initiatives that can serve as replicable models for other states.

“As the nation’s capital, we need to lead the way when it comes to protecting and preserving our environment. Green workforce development programs are one way cities and states across the U.S. can build stronger and more sustainable neighborhoods while also preparing residents for 21st century jobs,” said Mayor Bowser. “In Washington, DC, programs like Solar Works DC, the Green Zone Environmental Program, and River Corps are a win-win for residents and the environment.”

Through green workforce development programs, the District is preparing residents for entry into the job market, creating a pipeline to employment, and supplying employers with a qualified, well-trained workforce. Since Mayor Bowser took office, more than 1,000 young people have participated in the District’s programs, with many participants going on to land jobs in the fields of energy and environment. 

The Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP) - GZEP is one of the nation’s largest summer green jobs training programs for youth and young adults. Every summer, the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) partners with the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to provide over 300 young Washingtonians, ages 14 to 24, with an opportunity to learn about energy and environmental issues, complete community-based environmental work projects, and prepare for careers. 

Solar Works DC - DOEE and DOES launched Solar Works DC as a pilot in the summer of 2016, and in July 2017, Mayor Bowser officially launched Solar Works DC as a year-round solar systems installation and job training program. Through Solar Works DC, the District will increase the city’s solar capacity, reduce energy costs for income-qualified District homeowners, and train a qualified workforce who can enter jobs in the solar and related industries. Solar Works DC will provide training for over 200 District residents and install solar systems on up to 300 homes

River Corps - Starting in 2016, River Corps began offering job training in green infrastructure and conservation to DC residents. The  program provides field experience and classroom instruction, including job readiness training, certifications, and career development opportunities. Participants engage in monitoring DC streams, invasive species management, and inspection and maintenance of RiverSmart homes and other bio-retention and low-impact development sites. Participants are also exposed to a diverse range of skill-building and professional development workshops and activities.

“I’m proud of the District’s efforts to prepare residents for jobs in the rapidly expanding green economy, and we’re honored to be recognized nationally,” said Tommy Wells, Director of DOEE. “These programs, and this award, highlight Mayor’s Bowser’s leadership in growing the green economy and commitment to inclusive prosperity by providing residents a pathway to employment.”

Mayor Bowser’s commitment to green workforce development programs is part of the Administration’s overall effort to build a more sustainable Washington, DC while getting more residents on pathways to the middle class. In July, the Bowser Administration announced its intent to award $13.2 million in Solar for All DC Innovation and Expansion Grants to ten awardees. The $13.2 million will result in the deployment of 7 MW of solar generation capacity, and the funded projects will provide opportunities for job training and employment, support local economic development, reduce the energy burdens and costs for low-income residents whether they own or rent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since Mayor Bowser took office, 19 MW of solar, or 32 percent of the District’s total capacity, has been developed, and over 1,600 solar energy systems have been installed, representing a 56 percent increase in the number of systems. Additionally, over the past two and a half years, the District has launched the Climate Ready DC plan, entered into one of the largest municipal onsite solar projects in the U.S., and completed the largest wind power purchase agreement deal of its kind ever entered into by an American city. Currently, the DC Government is 100 percent powered by renewable energy and DC is on track to derive at least one-half of the entire city’s electricity from renewable resources by 2032.

The Environmental Council of the States is the national non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders. The 2017 State Program Innovation Awards will be presented this fall in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.