The Center for Sustainable Careers offers free job training to Baltimore residents in the solar and construction industries. Graduates of the program are placed in jobs with the center’s employer partners and earn an average wage of $17.50 per hour. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

Civic Works’ Center for Sustainable Careers recently celebrated a milestone achievement of 1,000 Baltimore residents trained to pursue quality employment. 

“One thousand graduates is 1,000 individuals who have had the opportunity to build careers, and each of those individuals is a story we’re really grateful to be a part of,” said Eli Allen, director of the Center for Sustainable Careers. “At the end of the day, it’s those individuals, their stories and their success that pave the way for the future of our work.” 

Civic Works started in 1993 with a mission of strengthening communities through education development and community service. In 2001, the nonprofit established its Center for Sustainable Careers with the goal of expanding access to family-sustaining jobs for Baltimore residents. 

“Across Baltimore, we know that there’s significant disparities in outcomes for Black residents when we look at unemployment rates, average income and the wealth gap by race,” said Allen. 

The goal of the Center for Sustainable Careers is to address these inequities by ensuring that individuals have the skills, training and preparation to start a career. The center also prioritizes registering those who face systemic and racialized barriers to employment. 

Through its programming, unemployed and underemployed trainees earn industry-recognized certifications, employability skills and on-the-job training free of charge. The various training tracks include solar energy installation, home weatherization and utility infrastructure. 

During the 9-week training, participants are provided with a weekly stipend, as well as transportation assistance so that the program does not become a financial burden. 

Upon completion, the center also provides a minimum of two years of job retention and case management support. It also aids participants in receiving their driver’s license and buying a car to remove transportation barriers to employment. 

Lumina Solar, Miller Pipeline and BGE comprise some of the center’s employer partners, which offer job placement opportunities. Before enrolling a new cohort, the Center for Sustainable Careers guarantees that they have more jobs lined up than people participating. 

The center also collaborates directly with its employer partners to improve retention, advancement opportunities and workplace culture. It examines everything from the benefits that the companies provide to how they execute performance evaluations. 

“It’s the type of employer and the quality of the workplace at the employer that’s going to be a driver of long-term career success for our graduates,” said Allen. 

Going forward, Allen said he hopes that the Center for Sustainable Careers can grow its program and have a deeper systemic impact that makes the labor market in Baltimore more equitable.

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