With local unemployment running at nearly 30 percent in California’s Imperial County—the highest rate since the Great Depression—the members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 in San Diego plan to play a big role in helping to rebound the county’s economy.

Under a 2009 executive order by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), one-third of the Golden State’s energy supply must come from renewable sources by 2020. Union members and community and business leaders are working to make Imperial—a sun-drenched county located between San Diego County and Mexico—into the state’s leading center for alternative energy and good green jobs.

Last year, Local 569 opened the first union apprentice training facility in Imperial County. With its emphasis on green technology, the Imperial County Electric Training Center is expected to graduate its first class next spring. IBEW has a national initiative to train workers for green jobs withn training centers in several locations, including Miami and Indianapolis.

The plan is for the training center graduates to be in the front of the line when new contracts are approved by the Federal Bureau of Land Management and the Imperial County Planning Department for thousands of renewable energy projects spawned by the executive order.

Says Micah Mitrosky, an organizer for Local 569:

We are committed to making sure these new green jobs are IBEW jobs. To accomplish that goal, we have stepped up our organizing efforts, opened a new training facility…and are partnering with community allies, environmental organizations and elected leaders.

Local 569 says it wants to help make sure that the bulk of Imperial County’s new renewable energy jobs put local residents to work. Says Mitrosky:

By next year, we believe we are really going to see work take off in the Imperial Valley. Our priority is to put county residents to work on these projects and to grow our local, skilled IBEW workforce in the Imperial Valley.

Local 569, along with members of the Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) and Imperial High School are introducing vocational students to green technology. Mitrosky says:

We want to get students ready for the growing green economy here in Imperial County and show them that union apprenticeship is the best pathway into a middle-class career in these new clean energy industries.

Click here to see a video of KYMA TV News’ report on Local 569’s Imperial County training facility.

James Parks

James Parks