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VWW Graduates First Trailblazers: Green Class

News , Women's Programs | Oct 12, 2022 | Back to List

By Jillian Scannell, Development and Communications Coordinator

Students stand around table with wires and boxes.
Trailblazers practice working with circuits.

Vermont Works for Women marked another milestone as we graduated our first cohort of Trailblazers: Green – our training program that covers core renewable energy, construction, and solar installation skills. In seven weeks through a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction, and on-the-job internship experiences, our program prepares women and gender-expansive individuals for careers in the renewable energy sector.  

We started the class learning how to use hand and power tools and discussing basic solar terminology. To get comfortable working with the tools, participants crafted footstools and practiced working with PVC and metal conduits. 

Guest instructors Tammy Ellis and “Safety Lady” Katie Fredericks joined the class to teach Construction Math and train all participants in OSHA 10. The class also had special visits from professionals in the green sector such as Champlain Valley Weatherization Services and Inaccess Inc.  

Students look on as classmates stand on solar roof with foliage in the background.
Trailblazers visit SunCommon facilities.

After learning the solar basics, our Trailblazers visited SunCommon’s facilities in Waterbury, VT, practicing safely climbing ladders, using harnesses and ropes, and navigating a roof on the local solar company’s practice roof. The roof is approximately six feet off the ground, providing a great introduction to residential roof solar installations. Participants also got a tour of the facility and figured out how to properly carry solar panels. 

Women stand in group in front of steel building structure.
Trailblazers tour ReArch Company’s job site.

In addition to field trips to the Burlington Electric McNeil Biomass Plant and Encore Renewable Energy solar sites, our class had the opportunity to tour ReArch Company’s commercial construction site for OnLogic in South Burlington. Here, they gained a better understanding of the construction industry and the variety of available jobs. One participant, who recently turned 50, shared that they joined the class to start living life to meet her own expectations, not others.

Nicole smiles while on a construction site.
Nicole interned with Shelterwood Construction

In the final three weeks of the class, participants interned with various solar and green energy employers. We collaborated with Bellwether Craftsmen, Capstone Community Action, Champlain Valley Weatherization Services, Burlington Electric Department Forestry, I-Sun, Shelterwood Construction, and SunCommon.

While we don’t measure class success by the number of Trailblazers offered jobs, we celebrate those who do! Of the seven adult graduates, four received job offers; two have accepted and two are still considering multiple offers. Two other graduates are leaving their current jobs and deciding what direction they want to take.  At graduation, one of the participants reflected, “Because of this program, I see a path.”   

Woman carries a solar panel up a ladder.
Participant practices carrying a solar panel up a ladder.

As program manager Missy Mackin explains, “All this is to say that Trailblazers: Green was our most successful cohort yet at providing not only empowerment but the opportunity for broad and deep career exploration.” Listen to Missy’s interview about the class with the Yale Climate Connections radio program

Our tenth Trailblazers cohort begins this month in Rutland at The MINT. The classic class covers core carpentry and construction skills and includes a three-week internship with a local employer. In addition to learning in the shop and at their internships, students will also get hands-on experience at a Habitat for Humanity build project in Rutland. Sign-up for our newsletter to stay up to date on future classes.

The Trailblazers: Green program is funded by many generous supporters, including Canaday Family Charitable Trust, Keen, Carpenters Local 349/352, Encore Renewable Energy, TD Charitable Foundation, Dovetail Workwear, and VLITE. 


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