(photo by Melody Hanatani)

VENICE — It was just a few years ago that Jayshawn English was running into trouble with the law, placed on probation after he was convicted of being an accessory to burglary.

Today the 21-year-old from West Los Angeles is thinking of a career in green construction, hoping to one day own a wind turbine business to power communities.

He’s among a group of at-risk young adults who are participating in an offshoot of a local program that provides secondary education and job training, helping them develop the skills and experiences needed to launch a career.

The new program, which is part of the YouthBuild initiative with the Venice Community Housing Corp., focuses on job training in the growing green sector, educating the participants, many of whom are high-school dropouts, on the background of the sustainability movement and offering hands-on experience with solar panel construction. The construction training portion of the program will wrap up this week.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to not just develop a career path, but to have the flexibility to look at the market and create a career path that others might be interested in,” Steve Clare, the executive director of VCHC, said.

Funded by a $170,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation, the program was created in partnership with Earthplay Learning Adventures, Environmental Solar Design, GrowinGreen Energy, and California Solar Electric, which is a preferred provider for the Solar Santa Monica initiative in which City Hall encourages the installation of solar panels.

The program began with a course where the youths learned about green initiatives. They also received a lesson on the basics of solar panels and how the systems operate.

Students who were interested in the latter phase of the program, which includes the solar panel installation training on the VCHC roof, were required to submit a resume before going through a formal interview with a representative from California Solar Electric.

The experience that the students gained through a program can take them beyond a career in construction, Shawn Jacobson, a solar energy consultant and education coordinator with California Solar Electric, said.

“They can go as far as they want with this,” he said, adding that the knowledge in sustainability is applicable to other jobs.

The curriculum also included the development of a business proposal dealing with green issues, according to Selim Sandoval, the CEO of GrowinGreen Energy.

English, who never gave much thought to the topic of sustainability before the program, hopes to make his business proposal — which involves replacing structurally deficient palm trees with wind turbines — a reality.

“This looks like something I could build a career out of,” English said.

It’s a sentiment shared by his peers in the program, including Jorge Mendez, a 17-year-old West Los Angeles resident who has been with Venice Community Housing Corp. since 2007.

“It’s something new and something I would like to keep doing,” Mendez said.


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