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VWW Graduates First Trailblazers: Green Class

by Jillian Scannell

Trailblazers: Green class stands in front of solar panels

By: Jillian Scannell, VWW Development and Communications Coordinator

Vermont Works for Women marked another milestone as we graduated our first cohort of Trailblazers: Green – our training program that covers core renewable energy, construction, and solar installation skills. In seven weeks, through a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction, and on-the-job internship experiences, our program prepares women and gender-expansive individuals for careers in the renewable energy sector.

Class Highlights

Trailblazers: Green participants stand around table doing an acticity with wires and cicuits.

We started the class learning how to use hand and power tools and discussing basic solar terminology. Participants crafted footstools and practiced working with PVC and metal conduits to get comfortable working with the tools.

Guest instructors Tammy Ellis and “Safety Lady” Katie Fredericks joined the class to teach Construction Math and train all participants in OSHA 10. The class also had special visits from professionals in the green sector such as Champlain Valley Weatherization Services and Inaccess Inc.

After learning the solar basics, our Trailblazers visited SunCommon’s facilities in Waterbury, VT, practicing safely climbing ladders, using harnesses and ropes, and navigating a roof on the local solar company’s practice roof. The roof is approximately six feet off the ground, providing a great introduction to residential roof solar installations. Participants also got a tour of the facility and figured out how to properly carry solar panels.

Students look on as classmates stand on solar roof with foliage in the background.Women stand in group in front of steel building structure.










In addition to field trips to the Burlington Electric McNeil Biomass Plant and Encore Renewable Energy solar sites, our class had the opportunity to tour ReArch Company’s commercial construction site for OnLogic in South Burlington. Here, they gained a better understanding of the construction industry and the variety of available jobs. One participant, who recently turned 50, shared that they joined the class to start living life to meet her expectations, not others.

In the final three weeks of the class, participants interned with various solar and green energy employers. We collaborated with Bellwether Craftsmen, Capstone Community Action, Champlain Valley Weatherization Services, Burlington Electric Department Forestry, I-Sun, Shelterwood Construction, and SunCommon.

Trailblazers: Green Outcomes

While we don’t measure class success by the number of Trailblazers offered jobs, we celebrate those who do! Four of the seven adult graduates received job offers; two have accepted and two are still considering multiple offers. Two other graduates are leaving their current jobs and deciding what direction they want to take.  At graduation, one of the participants reflected, “Because of this program, I see a path.”

Woman carries a solar panel up a ladder.

As program manager Missy Mackin explains, “All this is to say that Trailblazers: Green was our most successful cohort yet at providing not only empowerment but the opportunity for broad and deep career exploration.” Listen to Missy’s interview about the class with the Yale Climate Connections radio program.

Our tenth Trailblazers cohort begins this month in Rutland at The MINT. The classic class covers core carpentry and construction skills and includes a three-week internship with a local employer. In addition to learning in the shop and at their internships, students will also get hands-on experience at a Habitat for Humanity build project in Rutland. Sign-up for our newsletter to stay up to date on future classes.

The Trailblazers: Green program is funded by many generous supporters, including Canaday Family Charitable Trust, Keen, Carpenters Local 349/352, Encore Renewable Energy, TD Charitable Foundation, Dovetail Workwear, and VLITE. 


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