By Harry Colbert, Jr.
Gov. Mark Dayton has set a goal moving the state to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
In achieving that goal that will increase the demand for skilled workers in the emerging sector of renewable energy, which uses wind, sun, geothermal heat … even rain and other natural sources to provide power. With the increased demand comes opportunities, but those opportunities could be out of reach (figuratively and literally) for many African-Americans and others of color.
Jamez Staples, president Renewable Energy Partners, hopes to change all that.
Renewable Energy Partners has been awarded a state grant through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to train residents of disadvantaged communities in the emerging field of renewables. The project is a part of a partnership with Emerge Community Development and Minneapolis Public Schools’ adult learning program. Through the program participants train at either a Minneapolis Public School location or Emerge, 1101 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis and earn two college credits via Century College in White Bear Lake. Once a week students – many with transportation needs – are provided rides to Century College, which is a 30 minute trek each way provided there are no traffic delays. Staples believes he has the solution.
The solution, according to Staples is an abandoned property owned by the city of Minneapolis that sits at 1200 Plymouth Ave. N. Staples is petitioning the city to purchase the site and transform it into a multi-purpose training facility that he says would provide all the resources one would need to start a career in renewable energies and bring further economic stability to the Northside. He said as it stands now the only available training in the field are in remote areas of the state.
“If you want to be an electrician you have to go out to St. Michael or White Bear Lake or Lino Lakes (for certified training). Wadena is where (utility) line workers get trained. Xcel (Energy)’s training is in Hugo,” said Staples. “So we’re trying to get a training center build right here in the heart of the city. We’ve got to bring the training to where the people are.”
Staples said these skilled jobs of the now and the future offer great economic opportunities and the demand is high.
“Xcel is saying they need people to fill these jobs and they need to diversify their workforce,” said Staples. “Some of these jobs are paying $80,000 a year.”
Staples said the proposed training facility would train for multiple trades in addition to energy sector training.
“We want a development site where students of all trades can take advantage of the learning,” said Staples. “This is important to me because I’m from North Minneapolis and because I’m concerned about the disparities we (people of color) face in this state. I’m passionate about this.”