For 27 young adults who barely knew each other, many of whom faced bleak futures, a nascent program came just at the right time to light the way.
Chosen for the first Student ACES Solar Boot Camp, these young adults have been empowered to change course for a promising career – and possibly even transform their lives.
The intense four-week training camp, which ended on July 16, focused not only on solar-powered construction, but also on leadership and essential life skills
to help them lift themselves out of poverty and break a generational cycle.
“After hearing from several companies such as FPL, Moss Construction, Garcia Farms, OCI, GameChanger Tech and others talk about the need for good character employees and the growing concern for future leaders, we knew we had to do something. thing, ”said Buck Martinez, president and co-founder of the nonprofit Student ACES. “Character, education and leadership training are what we do best – it’s our DNA.”
ACES’s mission is to inspire and develop high school student athletes to be men and women of honor, character and integrity.
Hailing from economically disadvantaged communities in Palm Beach and Martin counties including Indiantown, Belle Glade, West Palm Beach and Pahokee, the 27 training camp graduates are
ready to succeed in Florida’s booming solar industry.
The program is the result of a partnership between Student ACES and the state’s solar industry leaders, including Florida Power & Light Co., Moss Construction, Garcia Development, and GameChange Solar. The sessions were held at the Student ACES Center in Belle Glade and at Project Lift in Martin County, which also partnered with the pilot program. Participants also visited an FPL solar power center being built by Moss Construction.
Students, between the ages of 18 and 25, are guaranteed entry-level positions with solar subcontracting companies that are building solar centers across Florida. The Sunshine State ranks second in the country for job creation in solar energy, mainly due to massive solar construction led by the state’s largest utility, FP&L.
“Solar is a growing and sustainable field, and these students will be able to have careers with great possibilities in construction,” said Edwin Perkins, president of Moss Construction of Solar. “We are honored to be part of this effort, which is taking place in our own garden, and to donate it to local students. “
“The four week training camp was an inspiration,” Martinez said. “It was truly rewarding to see young men and women from all walks of life come together and develop a close family bond that will last a lifetime. These participants will advance in the industry and eventually become project supervisors throughout the state of Florida. “
Lavince Augustin, resident of Belle Glade and graduate of Glades Central, was one of the 27 chosen. He said his biggest challenge – and his reward – came when he “was forced out of his comfort zone” to lead some of the case studies.
“This project means everything to me,” Augustine said. “It allows me to pursue a career and support my family. I learned a tremendous amount of knowledge about myself and how to handle leadership cases and about my character.
At first, the participants did not know what to expect. They were reserved and watched. By the end of training camp, a strong bond had formed.
“The graduation / placement ceremony was very emotional,” Martinez said. “Participants know they have to enter the workforce without the other training camp participants by their side; However, they know they still have a mentor and support system through Student ACES. “
The ACES student worked with FP&L from the early stages of program development. In addition to donating solar panels to facilitate the training process, FP&L team members such as Matt McCord, senior project manager in engineering and construction, serve as mentors to the student ACES.
“It’s not just about teaching someone how to install solar panels,” McCord said. “I have been fortunate enough to work directly with these individuals, and I can tell you that the combination of skills they acquire, combined with their inherent integrity, winning attitudes and leadership skills, will make them a tremendous asset to this industry. “
Onboarding and a 10-hour OSHA safety certification will allow graduates to begin work on their first day on the job.
The additional goal of the program is that the core values that participants honed during training camp help them advance this opportunity into a skilled trade and a lifelong career. These lessons included character education – respect, confidence, attitude, work ethic, sacrifice, personal brand and leadership. How to open a bank account and establish credit, along with time management, resume writing, and interview techniques, completed the essential work of the life skills course.
“The unprecedented growth of solar power in Florida provides a perfect opportunity for career advancement,” said Syd Kitson, President and CEO of Kitson Partners, Chairman of the Florida Board of Governors and member of the Board of Directors of Student. ACES. “The graduates of this program have learned to plan a career that spans decades.
For Martinez, the highlight of the training was seeing group members develop a high level of camaraderie and work through leadership and character education case studies.
“All of these participants went through trauma, and seeing them develop their resilience was remarkable,” said Martinez.