03 Apr STEAM Expo – Cal Solar offers youth internships and future technology careers
This Saturday April 6, 2019 9:00am – 3:00pm @ The Nevada County Fairgrounds in the Northern Mines Building
Photo above: Oliver Bach, left, in 2017 as a Cal Solar Intern. Facilities Manager Josh Jozefowski, right.
The solar industry is one of the leading industries in the U.S. and offers great local opportunities for young people entering the job market after high school.
On April 6, Grass Valley-based business, California Solar Electric Company will have an outreach booth at the fourth annual Nevada County STEAM Expo where kids can learn more about how they can get involved in solar internship and apprenticeship programs.
Cal Solar will join about a dozen other local technology and science-based companies at the event held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and organized by Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. Employees from California Solar will be on hand with a solar phone charging station and a solar powered golf cart. Older teens interested in renewable energy and sustainable future career paths, will have a chance to find out more about becoming an intern.
“What we want to do is give kids the ability to be on the top of the food chain in the solar installer market and kickstart their careers,” said Lars Ortegren, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Cal Solar.
It all started back in 2011 through a partnership with One Stop Career Center where Cal Solar employees taught classes on pathways to green careers to at risk young adults age 19 – 23. Since then, an internship program has evolved, mixing education and on the job training for young people.
“Out of that came this idea that we want to get people when they are younger so they get the bug and begin to accelerate. That really started to highlight where we want to be – a place where we can empower people,” said Ortegren.
Now in its fourth year, the program is designed for high school students 16 years of age or older who are willing to work hard and have a drive for solar energy and renewable resources. Young women are encouraged to apply.
Interns start with one day a week during the school year with a strong expectation that internships will evolve into an apprenticeship the following summer. At the end of the second year, California Solar will equip grads of the program with the experience and education for the highest certifications in the Solar Industry, qualifying them for the highest paid jobs in the fastest growing industry in the country.
Solar Photovoltaic Installers are the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., with a 105 percent growth rate predicted for 2016 – 2026, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Electricians have always been one of the hottest jobs in the U.S. Now solar installers are considered in the top jobs in the U.S. We’re really setting interns and apprentices up for success,” said Ortegren. The training prepares young people for a long term position before, after, or in lieu of college.
Already, one graduate of the program has gone off to get his journeyman certification and now runs a solar company in New Mexico. Another went on to find work in Seattle. Oliver Bach, 18, started as an intern through Bitney High School, and is now a full-time solar electrician with the company, an example of Cal Solar’s mission to save the planet and provide meaningful careers locally.
“What we train isn’t a job, it’s a trade and a craft. We don’t hire workers, we train technicians. We look for people with mechanical abilities, teach them the theory behind electricity, the codes, and standards that all electrical work requires, and the art of how to make it beautiful. A trade isn’t a job that is just learned, it’s something that involves learning every day and is in constant refinement,” said Ortegren.
The Fourth Annual Nevada County STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Expo will be held between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m on April 6 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The STEAM Expo combines science, technology, engineering, art, and math into a stimulating experience that engages the entire family. It’s also a place where students show off their hard work and compete in several categories.
Other tech-related businesses invited to the event as part of a new pilot program funded by Nevada County Economic Resource Council include: AJA, Autometrix, Geo-Logic Associates, Grass Valley, A Belden Brand, Grass Valley Police Department, Nevada Irrigation District, Nevada City Film Festival, Sierra Soil Biology Association, Sierra Streams Institute, South Yuba River Citizens League and Traitware.
“The idea behind it is to show students a pathway within Nevada County for different technology careers. There are so many options in technology and so many options locally,” said STEAM Expo Coordinator Heidi Lyss.