The group trains 18- to 24-year-olds with high school diplomas or equivalency, and who reside in New York City, in a structured program that lasts several months. Training includes community projects in green infrastructure, and participants receive a $900 stipend twice a month, plus free monthly MetroCards.
And through the program’s career and alumni services department, participants meet employers and land jobs that typically pay between $17 and $30 an hour to start. Some even go on to earn annual salaries of up to $90,000 as project managers.
“It meant a lot to be something positive happening within my community,” said Joshua Owens, director of social enterprise operations at Green City Force who first participated in the program himself in 2014.
Owens is empowered by the program, since he can now move anywhere in the industry by leaning into his technical skills.
“I was blown away,” he said. “It felt like a college course, with so much information with sustainability across all fields — energy work, how to preserve resources, water conservation, urban farming, garden builds.”
Similarly, Fort Greene resident Gary Lambert participated in NYC CoolRoofs. The free program from the NYC Department of Small Business Services offers training, certification and work experience installing energy-saving reflective rooftops.
Since its founding in 2009 inception, CoolRoofs has coated 11 million square feet of New York City’s rooftops in heat-vulnerable neighborhoods. All their pro to improve air quality, reduce roof and internal temperatures and carbon emissions.
“It was a way to better myself for employment and help me gain certifications for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), site safety training, first aid and CPR,” said Lambert who previously worked in home maintenance. “This gave me the necessary tools to get a foot in the door.”
Participants’ pay varies by position, but typically starts at $15 an hour. The post-program intent is to transition into employment by tapping into the virtual Workforce1 Career Center System, which offers free job readiness, employment connections and support.
“Our CoolRoofs program trains and connects New Yorkers to good jobs, building our economic recovery while advancing the city’s environmental goals,” stated Kevin D. Kim, commissioner for the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “This program helps reduce energy consumption and curbs the urban heat island effect, helping New York City to get closer to carbon neutrality by 2050.”