California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

SOMAH and paid solar job training in the time of COVID-19

Clean energy to the frontlines

Just three months ago, neighbors, members, and organizers with Communities for a Better Environment gathered at the Oakland Public Library for a workshop on bringing solar energy to multi-family affordable housing. At the library, we shared pupusas and cups of lemonade as the community organizers talked about the potential for solar to help California transition away from natural gas plants and ways to build energy resiliency for Black and brown community members.

The conversation turned to the recent PG&E blackouts. Several community members shared the effects of the blackouts on their families, talking about how grandparents went for days without critical respirators and refrigerated medication. 

Three months later, COVID-19 has only amplified the long standing systemic and racial inequities that low income, Black, indigenous, and communities of color have been facing for generations – including a lack of access to affordable housing and economic opportunity while bearing disproportionate burden of pollution and health disparities. The COVID-19 crisis is laying bare the disparity in access to well paying jobs and environmental health in black and brown communities across California and the nation, and we know that wildfire season, with its threats to energy stability, is still to come.

During this time, the SOMAH program, Communities for a Better Environment, APEN, EHC, and  CEJA, have been working together to respond to the pandemic and to our communities’ needs. For millions of Californians, one of the biggest concerns is finding secure employment to weather the recession. Right now, we can’t gather in libraries and share platefuls of beans and pupusas, but we can share knowledge and pathways to meaningful and justly compensated work. 

One way that people looking to gain new skills can find paid job training is through California’s Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH), a program that will deliver clean power and reduce increasing energy bills for hundreds of thousands of California’s affordable housing residents. Solar installation has been deemed essential work and is one of many potential career pathways into the solar industry – SOMAH offers paid training in installation, project management, system design, and more.

COVID-19 has shown us how the struggle for environmental, racial, economic, and health equity are intertwined – we can’t have any one without the others. Programs like SOMAH, which focus on employment opportunity and clean energy access in low income, communities of color, are a stepping stone to making larger systemic changes in racial and environmental equity.

If you are interested in learning more about SOMAH’s job training opportunities, please contact gwen@caleja.org to learn more about our upcoming information session.