David Wilson, at right, participated in Rising Sun's Climate Careers program as well as the Opportunity Build Nights and Weekends 2022 cohort. At left is Juanita Douglas, Rising Sun's Senior Manager of Construction and Labor Relations. Credit: Rising Sun

David Wilson of Oakland spent last summer making “Green House Calls” as part of the Climate Careers program with Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. He installed LED light bulbs, water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators, as well as checking for toilet leaks.  And he provided another valuable service: information.

“Some people didn’t understand the bigger picture — when you tell someone about climate change that’s a huge umbrella that warrants more questions,” Wilson said. “I didn’t mind sitting down with people and telling them more, small steps they could take — and sometimes, they share the information with others.”

The Climate Careers program is a win-win situation: the house calls are free, and the young people in the program, like Wilson, gain valuable work experience — and a paycheck. Rising Sun, based in both Oakland and Stockton, is a nonprofit, and is supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation

David Wilson measures a home’s kitchen faucet water flow rate during a July “Green House Call” in Oakland. Credit: Rising Sun

Rising Sun’s earn-and-learn program is open to youth, aged 15 to 24, from low-income households, and gives them the opportunity to gain paid, hands-on work experience while taking climate action. Professional development workshops and coaching round out the summer.  Almost 1,900 young people have come through Climate Careers since the program started in the year 2000.

Wilson also worked as an electrification extern, researching the feasibility and potential benefits of adopting induction cooktops in Bay Area homes. Today, he is taking his interest in the environment in a new direction — he is studying at San Francisco State and hopes to become a naturalist.

Job training for adults

Rising Sun also offers a program for low-income adults who are un- or under-employed; Opportunity Build is a 10- to 12-week construction training program in Oakland. Graduates transition to careers in union trades, becoming sheet metal workers, operating engineers, carpenters and more — careers with family-sustaining wages, upward mobility, and benefits.

For long-term success, Opportunity Build covers essential life skills including financial capability, accountability, time management and effective communication; job-seeking skills such as resume and cover letter writing; and interview practice and networking.

Toni, a 2022 graduate of Women Building the Bay, is now a project manager at Rebuilding Together East Bay North in Richmond. Credit: Rising Sun

Opportunity Build also includes one of the few all-women, pre-apprenticeship programs in the nation, Women Building the Bay, which is key to the graduates’ success in a field where 97 percent of their coworkers are men. Women in the U.S. earn on average 83 cents for each male dollar, but this gender pay gap does not exist in the trades, where pay rates are fixed by experience level.

Bank of America’s support

Bank of America has donated $200,000 to Rising Sun so that it can continue to prepare youth and adults to begin careers that make a difference for families and the planet.

Julia Hatton is president and CEO of Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. Credit: Rising Sun

As part of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders program, both Julia Hatton, Rising Sun president and CEO, and Alejandro Castelan, the associate director of Climate Careers, Bay Area, will engage in leadership development to maximize the organization’s impact.

“Investing in Rising Sun itself — in the people who deliver our direct services, work alongside our participants, and develop the programs we run — is what allows us to move the needle on economic mobility and climate resilience in the communities we work with,” Hatton said. 

Gioia McCarthy, Bank of America’s San Francisco-East Bay president explained why the Bank chose to support this program.

“Rising Sun continues to create solid pathways to success for youth and adults alike,” McCarthy said. “Rising Sun’s unique way of addressing economic inequity by focusing on one of our planet’s biggest challenges — the climate — opens the door to long-term career options for those who are part of their comprehensive programs.”

Community support

Here’s how the community can support this program: 

  • Become a 2023 externship host. Rising Sun is excited to learn about any position that will allow youth to explore career opportunities and work-related passions; however, green energy, environmental, or other social impact positions are preferable.
  • Join Rising Sun’s 2023 Climate Careers job panels. If your company is in the environmental sector or has sustainability-related positions, youth could benefit from your valuable insight. 
  • Learn more about hiring Opportunity Build graduates. Rising Sun is always looking for new union construction partners to hire our alumni. Rising Sun provides all graduates with a full year of retention support to facilitate new-hire success. 
  • Give to Rising Sun. Rising Sun would love your financial or in-kind support as an individual, a corporate sponsor, or a grant-maker.