BELLE GLADE -- Twenty-Seven young men and women have participated in a four-week boot camp to prepare them to enter the solar energy industry.
Due to rapid growth within the solar industry, Florida Power and Light (FPL) reached out to Student ACES with the desire to create a program for young adults to be trained in leadership skills as well as the technical skills which go along with the job.
Student ACES partnered with Project Lift to create a four-week boot camp of interactive teaching that focused on character development, leadership qualities, work ethic, certified safety training and much more. Participants said that this boot camp program provided them with mentors who took the time to give them what they need to be successful in the workplace.
“It makes me feel good knowing that I have an opportunity to better myself and become a better person at the end of the day,” Elie Flisamie.
Student ACES has partnered with employers such as Moss Construction and FPL so all participants who completed the four-week boot camp are guaranteed an entry-level position in the solar energy field.
This boot camp taught these young individuals skills far beyond the technical requirements of the job. They have learned what qualities make them unique, how to work as a team, how to manage the money they are going to be making and much more.
Comparable to other inner-city communities, the agricultural community of Belle Glade has seen unemployment in the double-digits for decades. Young adults rely on things like football to get them out of poverty and compared to other cities throughout the county, Belle Glade produces a significant number of NFL and collegiate football players.
Student ACES is a non-profit organization that was founded by Buck Martinez and his daughter Krissy Webb in 2013 when the two had a desire to build leadership characteristics in high school student-athletes around the Palm Beach area. Martinez and Webb began with 30 high school students and worked with them once a month. They then began to organize events and workshops in the South Florida area. Today, over 40,000 kids have been part of Student ACES.
In 2019, Bank of America in Belle Glade got wind of the work that the father-daughter duo had been doing and offered to donate a branch building that was no longer in use. Today, Martinez has turned a previous bank into a safe space for young adults in the area.
Partnering with FPL is just one of the many initiatives Student ACES has taken to play a positive role in these young people’s lives.
According to the Department of Energy, solar energy is sunlight that has been converted to electrical energy through solar technologies. Solar energy may be used to produce electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage.
Solar energy is a mason industry and has the potential to wean off oil and provide clean and efficient energy. Costs are now competitive and the industry is beginning to boom.
“What an opportunity to place all these young men and women in an industry where they can get to supervision quickly,” Martinez said.
The 27 young men and women who participated in the boot camp graduated from the program on July 16, 2021 and are now employed in the solar industry.
Martinez said he anticipates holding another boot camp session in the fall to fulfill the increasing need for solar energy work. This industry is viewed to stay and Student ACES wants to continue to be a part of giving young adults what is needed to succeed in this career.
The participants have the opportunity to advance their position in the solar energy industry. Due to the mentorship received during the boot camp, participants are eager to move up into a supervisiory role and be able to mentor others.
“I would see myself elevating striving for the momentum for a supervisor role,” Lavince Augstin said.