On May 18, CJJ/West hosted a forum for Green Opportunities (GO) at the Asheville JCC. The intent of the forum was to spread the word about the non-profit and to help them connect with businesses in the building industry. George Jones, GO executive director, gave an overview about the organization and its core values: hope, change and transformation. GO has been in existence for about 8 years and there are now 65 graduates of their training programs (culinary and building). The event focused primarily on the builder training program, but the delicious refreshments were prepared by the culinary students. Mr. Jones stressed the current housing needs in Asheville and especially the need for green builders. For that reason, the 3-month training program is undergoing a change to a 9-month program. Doug Sharkey, the Build Environment Lead Teacher elaborated on the ED’s overview. He described the newly adapted curriculum, which will enable students to gain certifications in various fields (e.g. HVAC, OSHA) and to complete relevant apprenticeships to make them more employable. He feels GO is the work force solution in affordable housing in Asheville. He introduced a graduate of the program who was hired by the Asheville Housing Authority, who testified about the value of the GO program. Another former student, Eric Howell, was also introduced. He was so successful in the program that he was hired by GO as an instructor. Anthony Thomas, employment manager, introduced another graduate who related his personal story and how GO is unique and effective. He mentioned that 40% of the students have a criminal record and at least 32% are homeless. But what they all have in common is that We’re warriors. We work hard! GO provides wrap-around service support to their students to help them be successful.
The concluding statement from GO is that they need community support, in the form of volunteers, ambassadors and donors. They are especially seeking apprenticeship and jobs for their students. So if you are in the building industry, or know someone who is, check out Green Opportunities (www.greenopportunities.org). And if you are contracting to have some construction work done yourself, ask your builder to hire GO graduates.