City of Columbus Launches Clean-Energy Workforce Development Program through Partnership with IMPACT

Earlier this month, the City of Columbus announced a $1.5 million allocation to IMPACT Community Action to implement Empowered!—a new clean-energy workforce development program complete with experiential job opportunities targeted at 18 to 24-year-old Columbus residents. The program stems from the city’s Sustainable Columbus initiative, whose focus is to promote and strengthen energy-friendly policies and practices in the larger Columbus Community.

City representatives approached IMPACT to implement this program because of the agency’s work with energy initiatives and accomplished workforce development programs. Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther spoke to IMPACT’s unquestioned ability to run this program when he visited the agency last month.

“Know that they share our vision for a just and equitable future,” Ginther said at the press conference announcing the initiative. “They understand intuitively just how important it is to strengthen upward mobility and resiliency among our most vulnerable neighbors in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther shakes hands with Jameeka Humphries, Resident & Community Advocate for IMPACT Community Action. Also pictured is Beth Urban, Chief Operating Officer for IMPACT.

Vice President of Workforce Programs at IMPACT Community Action Teresa Gary has been diligently working to get the program running. Empowered! is currently in its recruitment phase—the response for which, Gary explains, has been encouraging.

“Even right after the press conference, we had folks filling out the interest forms, which was really exciting,” Gary said.

Participant recruitment for Empowered! focuses on communities of color and women in Opportunity Neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have been identified on a statewide level as having the potential to grow once financial and capacity challenges have been lessened. To reach the targeted individuals, Gary explained that IMPACT representatives will work with staff in current programs to identify interested participants.

“This program will give [participants] the opportunity to work where they live and make a difference in their community,” Gary said.

Over the next year, Empowered! will have three groups of program participants, each comprised of approximately 30 participants in the 12-week program. During this time, participants will receive training and begin developing the skills necessary for a full-time position in the construction and clean-energy sector. Training will include diversity, equity, inclusion, and digital literacy. Additionally, participants will be encouraged to investigate occupational interests in related fields.

Participants will also have real-world applications of these skills as energy advocates. As advocates, participants will, among other duties, perform energy audits, and will earn $17 an hour in addition to being compensated for their training time.

Program facilitators aim to have 20 graduates from each group placed into apprenticeships or directly into employment upon program completion. With a “leg up” into the energy sector, Gary hopes to in five years see these graduates continuing their careers and employing their refined skills to seize upward mobility opportunities in their companies.

“We want them to be able to purchase homes, pay off debt, be self-sufficient, have a nest egg, and begin to create generational wealth,” Gary said. “It’s one thing to be self-sufficient; it’s another to be stable, and it’s another to be comfortable.”

Empowered! is just one of the many programs and initiatives IMPACT Community Action is working to implement in the clean energy space. Gary explained that the goal of these programs is to prepare the workforce for the jobs that will define the future.

“We all know our city is headed in the direction of clean energy,” Gary said. “We want to make sure opportunities exist all around the city, and we want [Columbus] to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to clean energy.”