In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by Daniel Ferguson, the director of workforce development at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), a nonprofit organization that incubates promising cleantech startups in underserved communities and then helps to develop the local L.A. green jobs workforce through training and internships.

“There are two working definitions for green jobs. One is an actual company that has sustainable practices to be able to create a green product, and then the other, of course, is just an actual company that has a green product to be able to help to reduce greenhouse emissions and pollution,” explains Ferguson.

LACI focuses on startups working on clean energy; smart, sustainable cities; and zero emissions transportation.┬áThe ultimate mission is to bring more green jobs to workers and communities that haven’t always had representation in the tech industry. Ferguson says its important that for the cleantech industry to realize there are hidden treasures within local BIPOC communities that can help these companies grown.

“Giving startups exposure to our talent pipeline and seeing how well they can actually develop an idea and be able to work for an organization is really helping to change that narrative. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is very important to us. The purpose of our workforce development program is to provide individuals from underrepresented communities with experiential training and industry recognized credentials to get them into the green workforce.”

Career Exploration, Boot Camps, Credentials, and Internships

LACI recruits from local community based organizations, local work source centers, community colleges and universities, and word of mouth. Once someone signs up for the workforce development program, they spend the day learning about green job opportunities.

“Clean tech, for some, it’s attractive, and for others, it’s this interesting concept that some folks might not be aware of. We believe that introducing them to clean technology is important. Throughout the career expiration day, we’re providing individuals with the opportunity to learn about clean tech, also understand career pathways and introduce them to our LACI ecosystem and our startups. We believe that exposure is key,” Ferguson tells me in the podcast.

“The ultimate goal is not only helping them to realize some of the career opportunities that can come out of participating in our workforce development program, but also some of the other opportunities to become an actual founder and to have your own cleantech idea and help them to see how realistic it could be for them to become a founder and provide solutions in their local community as well,” he adds.

The career day is followed by a technical boot camp. “That is what I call the nuts and bolts of our actual program, where individuals learn from industry practitioners that are experts in the actual area in which we’re training. This technical boot camp can range from two weeks, all the way up to eight or 10 weeks. It just depends on the particular theme that we’re focusing on for the respective cohort.

“They then go into an internship program with our local startups, our partner organizations, where they get three months of hands-on experience to really apply all the things that they’ve learned throughout the technical boot camp. They also receive a stipend to be able to help them with living expenses as they go through the three-month internship.

“Technically, it’s part-time. We do encourage our participants to take advantage of 20 hours a week. That way, there’s a work and life balance so that they get the experience or training that they need in hopes that once they complete after three months, they can transition right into full-time employment with the startup, or either partner organizations, or perhaps other organizations that might be in our ecosystem.”

Ferguson says while the current program focuses on underrepresented communities, “it’s important for our startups and even our founders and our workforce development participants to realize that this green economy is for everyone.”

“Our ultimate vision is to convene a regional consortium of public and private organizations, academia, and also government, to ensure that we are taking full advantage of the green job space and making sure that individuals have the skills that they need to be able to seamlessly transition into these high road employment opportunities. The only way it’s going to happen is if we have this consortium where everyone is working off the same green job definition, and also making sure that we keep track of all of the positive outcomes to be able to continue to be able to utilize this data to support our claim that green jobs are the future,” adds Ferguson.

“Our vision is a cleaner, greener, more inclusive economy by way of the workforce pipeline and to create 600,000 green jobs by 2050.”

You can find out more about the LACI workforce development program, including how to apply here: LACI APC Fellowship. You can also reach out the team by email at workforce@laci.org.

You can listen to the full podcast here, or you can find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 200: Daniel Ferguson, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Workforce Development Director
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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