On Thursday, June 8, GRID LA and Chase Bank held a press conference at the Crenshaw Branch of Chase, celebrating the $500,000 award that GRID was given from JP Morgan Chase Bank in support of their Behind the Walls Solar workforce training program.
GRID LA is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization established in 2007 and serving Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties, with their innovative approach they combine learning with industry where their solar installation trainees receive a no-cost education while installing solar electric systems for families in underserved communities who are receiving no-cost cool roofs, solar systems, and battery storage.
GRID LA explains that their Behind the Walls training program will “prepare women who were formerly incarcerated in LA County Lynwood Women’s Jail for career opportunities in solar and renewable energy. The 13-week, paid program will provide hands-on training for solar panel installation, along with job placement support for those who successfully complete the program.
“GRID LA won this award as a part of JPMorgan Chase’s Annual Challenge competition, which began in 2018 and sources innovative and sustainable ideas to advance equity in the United States. This year’s competition called for projects focused on supporting women of color, and GRID GLA is one of just eight winners selected nationwide from more than 200 applications received.”
Solar panel installers have a wide range of duties including selecting mechanical designs, diagramming layouts and locations for photovoltaic arrays, as well managing operating systems for the equipment. With such technical work, two graduates of this training program gave attendees a demonstration on the process of installing a solar panel to give a broader vision of the work they do.
Shameka Dixon, Director of Workforce Development at GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles discussed the journey towards being accepted for this award “everything came full circle, and at first I didn’t think we were going to get it; I was nine months pregnant, I only had one other person to write this grant with and we put all of our effort in. We partnered with CEOs at Behind the Walls and we looked to our team and the work we have done. We are honored that we are able to do this work, especially in South LA, Pacoima, and the Greater Los Angeles area and we are so grateful.”
Chase also continues to do their part in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals by implementing their own policies to eliminate discrimination including their “ban the box” which removes questions about criminal backgrounds on job applications. They have implemented community hiring models nationwide to ensure they are working with their communities to employ individuals that may have a criminal record. With the influence of their Second Chance Policy Agenda, they have fostered success from the many policies and clean state legislation.
JP Morgan Chase’s Head of Global Philanthropy Corey Matthews spoke about their philanthropic program, green jobs, and honored GRID LA’s work within the community, “We know that doing business here comes with a tremendous responsibility, to both support and strengthen the business we do in our communities, JP Morgan Chase believes in a more equitable workforce. Green jobs offer wages that are eight to nine percent higher than the national average and are accessible to those without college degrees, but the green jobs industry is incredibly male-dominated, and GRID LA’s work with JP Morgan Chase will help women also take advantage of the stability and high growth opportunities that careers in the green industry, thus improving their family and community’s financial health.”
Ending with a panel moderated by Dixon, panelists discussed financial health, and career building after incarceration. Within low-income communities, there is a lack of financial education. Tatiana Roberts, Vice President of Community and Business Development explained that, “Many of us didn’t receive any kind of financial education and our goal is the bridge the wealth gap. Having a plan and having more conversations about financial health will help.”
Another panelist Unique Thomas, elaborated on what it is like to be a woman in this industry, “I’ve been learning to be vocal, speak up if you feel disrespected do not be afraid, do not doubt yourself, and continue to thrive.”
GRID LA encourages women to reach out and learn more about their program, and the many programs being offered across the city. Individuals can find career building and financial education workshops, and training from GRID, The Coalition for Responsible Community Development, LAUSD, and the Vernon-Central/LATTC Work Source Center among many others for resources to jumpstart a career after incarceration.
To find more information on how to get involved at GRID or to utilize Chase’s financial education resources visit https://gridalternatives.org/regions/gla and https://www.chase.com/personal/education.