Please join us in congratulating Brittany Heller and April Valdez from GRID Alternatives Colorado, winners of our latest Genius Grant Award. Brittany and April don’t talk about solar jobs – they make them happen.

HeatSpring Genius Grants are cash payments with no strings attached. We recognize renewable energy professionals doing important work that might otherwise go unnoticed or overlooked. We want to reward and promote these people for their contributions to our industry.

We asked Brittany and April to share some details about their work at GRID. Keep reading to learn why their work is so unique.

Why did you decide to apply for the Genius Grant?

Brittany: We work at the nation’s largest solar nonprofit, GRID Alternatives. Personally, I’ve been in the solar industry for over 6 years. I  love my role as Workforce & Community Engagement Manager at GRID because our organization focuses on engaging environmental and economic justice communities to ensure a rapid and equitable transition to a world powered by renewable energy that benefits everyone. We do this through the deployment of photovoltaic technology, workforce development, and policy efforts. Through my experience in solar sales and construction, I  develop and implement training programs across the state of Colorado to increase access to the living wage jobs of this rapidly growing industry. April and I  develop strategic partnerships, fundraise for our programs, lead large volunteer events, and work together as a small team of passionate people to push towards our goals.

The most important piece of our work over the past several years is ensuring that all of our training programs are now paid training programs. That means our trainees don’t have to choose between providing for their families and getting the education to launch their clean energy careers. This has absolutely contributed to the success of many individuals in our programs.

Why is your work important for the industry?

Brittany & April: At GRID, we typically work with people facing high barriers to employment who are ready to embark on a meaningful and fulfilling career path.. Trainees succeeding in launching their career in renewable energy while earning a livable wage can change everything in their world. In particular, our team has a passion for connecting with those leaving the justice system. Through constant efforts, we have convinced some employer partners who previously overlooked individuals affected by the justice system to begin implementing fair chance hiring practices.

Students Earn While They Learn

What work are you most excited about right now?

Brittany & April: GRID Colorado is implementing a solar installation training program that has been developed across all GRID offices called Installation Basics Training (IBT 200). IBT 200 is an industry-vetted program that builds on GRID’s 15+ years of experience teaching solar installation skills to more than 30,000 participants. The 200 hours of comprehensive training offers a combination of interactive classroom learning, hands-on lab activities, real-world solar installation and technical field experience. Here in our Colorado office, trainees receive $3000 to earn while they learn. This is a huge benefit to our trainees who don’t have to choose between earning money for their families and having the opportunity to build their skills in a growing industry.

Trainees leaving our programs are getting hired at rapid speed! Make sure to reach out to your local GRID office (if there is one) to get connected to our growing talent pool!

Looking Ahead to the Future

What do you hope to accomplish over the next 1-3 years?

Brittany & April: Seeing one of our job trainees light up and excitedly tell us that they received a job offer is everything to the GRID Colorado Workforce Team! Over the next several years, we will continue to implement various, paid hands-on training cohorts that provide our trainees with the technical and soft skills needed to kick start their career in the rapidly growing clean energy industry. Watching trainees build their financial stability while investing themselves in a career they love is everything to us and is vital to building an inclusive and equitable solar industry.

As mentioned previously, our team is working on developing even more opportunities for training by getting credited solar coursework into local high schools as well as building out partnerships to get solar classes behind the walls within the Colorado prisons.

Genius Grant Update

We’ve received so many impressive applications for the 2021 Genius Award. It’s not possible for us to fund all of the incredible people who have worked so hard to innovate. We’re going to announce one more winner, but look forward to promoting the amazing work of others who applied.

With sincere gratitude to all entrepreneurs and innovators,

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