June 6, 2010 – It’s amazing to think that it has already been 3 weeks since I started ACCORD’s “Green Jobs Training Program” at Los Angeles Trade-Tech. In that short amount of time, my classmates and I have been exposed to a wide variety of topics to help prepare us for potential career opportunities in the Utilities Industry/”Green Jobs” sector.

Currently, we have two classes in progress – Introduction to Utilities Math, and, Introduction to Water Distribution. One of the nice things about having both of these classes at the same time is that they complement each other very well. The material learned in one course will often reinforce the concepts taught in the other and vice versa. For instance, we had recently reviewed concepts like Volume, Density, and Flow in the Math Utilities class. So when the same topics were discussed in the Water Distribution course, it was an easy transition to just apply them within the context of a water distribution system.

One of the major factors helping all of us to gain a better understanding of the class material is the expertise and skill of the instructors. Mr. Joe Lemon, instructor for Utilities Math, is a great example of this. His course covers a wide range of mathematical concepts, from fractions and conversions, to algebra and geometry. For many of us, it has been several years since we first learned these concepts, so some skills were a little rusty. But Joe makes sure that we get plenty of practice with each lesson to build our comfort level. He is always willing to give anyone extra help if they want it. For example, he is available every day before the regular class starts to answer any questions that students might have. These additional “tutoring sessions” have been a valuable resource benefiting most of the students in the class at some time or another. Another great thing about Joe’s class is that he’ll frequently illustrate a mathematical concept with a real-world example. Math can be very abstract in some cases, so by showing us a tangible application; the lesson really “comes alive.”

The Water Distribution course is designed to prepare us to take the state exam for D1-D2 Water Distribution Operator. We are very fortunate to have Mr. Stephan McLean as our instructor. He has extensive experience in the water industry and has expertise across a wide variety of different water distribution systems. He always keeps the lectures interesting with his animated delivery style. Even though the class is scheduled from 8:00am to 3:00pm, the class never has a problem staying focused on the topic at hand. Stephan always has great stories from his real-world experience to help reinforce different concepts, and he always makes time for interactive discussions with the students. It’s also great that he is doing everything he can to help us succeed on the state exam. He designs our homework assignments and quizzes to mimic what we would encounter on the state exam, so that we are well-prepared.

The best part of the class for me, however, has been gaining a greater appreciation for the vital role that utilities play in our communities. For instance, we all depend on a safe, reliable, and consistent water supply. But this would not be possible without the countless teams of well-trained, dedicated professionals that help to run water distribution systems across the country. It’s been an exciting and rewarding start to the “Green Jobs Training Program.” I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store!

June 8, 2010 – There have been some challenges that I’ve had to face along the way. The biggest obstacle I encountered was adjusting to a new schedule. I don’t mean the time in the classroom – that was a relatively easy transition. For me, the biggest adjustment I had to get used to was making time outside of regular class hours to do my homework and study. From the first week of training we are all immersed in a whirlwind of information that we need to absorb, understand, and retain. We are assigned homework almost every day and have quizzes 1-2 times/week. In fact, I would argue that the work done outside of regular class hours is just as important to a student’s success as the formal instruction. So, I really had to be disciplined about making sure I set aside around 2 hours a day for assignments and/or studying. This was difficult at first since there are so many things that can be a distraction in one’s normal home environment. But once I committed to making this time part of my normal daily routine, it became easier and easier. Now, I am in the habit of focusing on my coursework for a set time every night – just as if I were sitting in the classroom. I’m so glad that I forced myself to adhere to this home-study schedule, even when I really didn’t want to. All the hard work is paying off through better results. One of the great things about the “Green Jobs Training Program” is that the more effort you put in, the greater the potential rewards.

June 23, 2010 – The students in ACCORD’s “Green Jobs Training Program” now have a couple weeks more of classes under their belts, and certainly have a great deal of skills to show for it. Our “Introduction to Water Distribution” course wrapped up on June 10. Within a few days, we received our course completion certificates from the American Water Works Association. That qualifies us to apply for the state exam for Water Distribution Operator on September 18, 2010. My classmates and I felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment when we found those certificates in our mailboxes. But, we also know that much of the hard work is still ahead of us. We’re going to have to make sure that we keep all of the course material fresh in our minds if we want to pass the state exam. Even though September 18 is still 3 months away, it will be here before we know it. I’m making an effort to review a portion of the course material every week so that when that day comes, I’ll walk into the exam confident that I have all the knowledge I’ll need for success. Several of us are planning to get together for some group study sessions as well. We’ve been given the tools and resources needed to get started in the water industry. Now, the ball’s in our court to make sure we’re well-prepared to pass the state exam. I know I’ll be taking advantage of all the study time I can!

Last week we started a new class, “Hands-On Weatherization.” Our instructors are the 3-man team of Mr. Wally Hanley, Mr. Willie Galvan, and Mr. Endy Segura. The goal of the course is to train us on implementing various weatherization measures in homes. We’re learning how to recognize and install some basic modifications that would significantly improve a home’s energy efficiency, while reducing utility customers’ monthly costs. We will learn how to perform important improvements including: pipe insulation, weather stripping, concealing ducts, replacing broken glass, and installation of low-flow shower heads and CFL fixtures. And that’s just a partial list! I’m having a lot of fun in this class because I get a chance to really “get my hands dirty.” After some brief classroom instruction, we’re off to the lab where we spend most of our time practicing each weatherization measure. I’ve learned how to glaze windows, caulk cracks, and check pipes for gas leaks with the same tools and materials that would be used in the field. The setting allows us to make any mistakes in the controlled environment of the lab, and our instructors guide us with tips and suggestions along the way. It’s great to walk into class everyday knowing that by the time I leave, I will have become proficient at an important new task. We’re getting the training necessary to perform these weatherization measures in a home with skill and precision. It’s also rewarding to know that we’ll be helping to create a cleaner, healthier, and more comfortable living space for the homes in our communities.

July 27, 2010 – I can hardly believe that my 10-week training adventure, ACCORD’s “Green Skills = Green Jobs” Program, is almost drawing to a close. This Friday, July 30, is Graduation Day at Los Angeles Trade-Tech. After almost 200 hours of training, my classmates and I will soon leave “student” life behind to become full-time, active, job-seekers. This can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. But graduates should rest easy knowing how much we have gained through all of our hard work. We are now armed with the knowledge and skills to help us embark on a new career path in the Green Jobs/Utility Industry.

The workplace is much safer for everyone thanks to instructors like Mr. Ed Antablin. During his week-long course, we completed certifications in CPR/First Aid and HAZWOPER 40. We received 40 hours of training on Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. We became familiar with the Hazard Waste Management system and understood the process involved when responding to an emergency hazardous waste incident. This is an essential component of operations for many industries (e.g., petro-chemical, manufacturing.) The proper handling of hazardous materials requires the work of many highly-skilled individuals. In fact, the health and safety of both workers and the public depends on them. I’m glad I had the opportunity to complete this valuable certification. The most memorable part of the class was when I got the chance to don a full chemical vapor protective suit (ensemble.) This included a fully-operational, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA.) For a minute there, I almost thought I was signed up for astronaut training!

The “Green Skills = Green Jobs” training curriculum appropriately wrapped up with the class, “Work Readiness”. Under the leadership of ACCORD’s talented Program Liaison, Ms. Jessica Ku, we learned how to create professional, stand-out resumes. Additionally, we developed our interviewing skills with plenty of practice and feedback. It’s great to have this kind of attention and guidance with regard to job search. I’ll have a chance to put my “Work Readiness” skills to the test when I go in for a “Mock Interview” this week. It will be set up to mimic a real-world interview from start to finish. Thinking about it is giving me “mock butterflies”! But as with many of the other skills I’ve learned during training, preparation + practice = success.

Throughout the duration of the program, we’ve all received the benefit of great instructors, a well-developed curriculum, and other additional resources. But, those things only became valuable because individual students took the initiative to turn that opportunity into an accomplishment. The graduates made it this far because of their hard work and dedication to achieving their objectives. That is exactly what will get us to our next goal as well. As for myself, I want to use my training, along with my previous experience, to become a valuable member of the Water Utility Industry. My plan to achieve this goal looks something like this: Monday through Friday, from 7:00am to 3:00pm – Job Search Activities (e.g., complete applications, send resumes, research companies, etc.) 3:00pm – 4:30pm, Study for D2 state exam scheduled for September 18th, 2010. Hopefully, I’ll eventually be making some adjustments to that schedule to include some interviews with possible employers. But first things first… let’s see how I do on this afternoon’s “Mock Interview.” Wish me luck!

Outreach Specialist and Conservation Training

The further along I progress through the “Green Jobs Training Program,” the more impressed I am with the overall planning and structure of ACCORD’s curriculum. In my previous entries, I’ve written a lot about the valuable skills that the students are getting from each individual class. But what I didn’t expect was how well the classes complement and build on one another. Without repeating information we’ve already learned, subsequent courses allow us to incorporate this knowledge into an entirely new skill set that prepares us for yet another career option within the Green Industry. A couple of great examples of this are the two most recent courses we’ve completed: “Outreach Specialist” and “Conservation.”

Many of the home weatherization measures that we were trained on a few weeks ago would never reach utility customers’ homes without the help of the “Outreach Specialist.” They play the vital role of educating residents about the benefits of these measures. They are trained to recognize both the eligibility and feasibility criteria needed to implement energy efficiency programs. Our instructor, Mr. Roland Aranjo, gave us a comprehensive understanding of the steps necessary in order to work as an “Outreach Specialist,” including how to get licensed as a “Home Improvement Salesperson.” Another aspect of the class that I particularly enjoyed was that Mr. Aranjo encouraged us to think like “Green Entrepreneurs.” We did a group exercise where we had to devise a business plan for a hypothetical green business that we created. Each group did a presentation to the class which included things like the company’s business strategy, marketing plan, and budget.

“Conservation” is another class that builds on many of the things we’ve already learned, while training us on a whole new aspect of the Utility/Green Industry. Here, we learned all about the importance of water conservation and how it is rapidly becoming an area that is going to require more and more skilled people in order to implement it. We were able to use much of what we learned in the “Water Distribution” course, and apply it to water conservation. With the guidance of our instructor, Mr. Willie Galvan, we learned how to recognize typical areas of the home where water is being wasted, and how to correct these issues. For instance, we measured the difference in the amount of water that is used with a standard shower head versus a low-flow one. We did similar measurements to see how much water is wasted with even the smallest of leaks. Throughout the country, and especially in California, more and more demands are being placed on water resources. Water companies are constantly finding ways to improve so that there will be enough supply to meet the needs of their customers. As these strategies and systems are developed, the ACCORD students will be well-prepared to join the effort!