Civic Works’ Center for Sustainable Careers

March 2022 / Case Studies / Workforce Development
Two men put together solar panels.

Civic Works’ Center for Sustainable Careers (CSC) was founded on the belief that the growing green economy has the potential to address two of Baltimore’s challenges: high levels of unemployment, particularly among returning citizens and aging housing stock that is energy inefficient, fossil fuel reliant, and contains environmental contaminants.

CSC is changing lives and communities by training un- and under-employed residents in the skills necessary for green jobs and helping them secure positions in the industry. It is also making buildings more environmentally sustainable and reducing utility bills by up to 40%, which helps homeowners and strengthens communities.

The three-month, entry-level solar and energy retrofit installer training programs provide one month of classroom-based instruction and two months of on-the-job training through Civic Works’ energy programs. Trainees receive weekly stipends of up to $200 during classroom and on-the-job training. They also receive bus passes, hot lunches, and individualized case management, focusing on the challenges that are preventing individuals from working, including help to reinstate suspended drivers’ licenses due to unpaid parking tickets or child support arrears. CSC also offers a 1:1 match savings program to help participants buy their own vehicles.

Group of uniformed people hold up a pipe.

CSC’s strategy is working: Across its programs, CSC has trained over 100 Baltimore residents a year, maintaining an average job placement rate of 88%. Since 2010, 80% of graduates have remained employed for at least one year. Since 2010, some 92% of program graduates were formerly incarcerated or had a significant history of arrest and conviction, and 94% were African-American men.

CSC is committed to improving job quality and equity. CSC has a community workforce agreement with 11 employment partners. The agreement requires the employers to use CSC as the first source for their mid-level hiring, pay their mid-level workers at least $15.50 an hour, and participate in an ongoing process for improving and measuring job quality. In exchange for this commitment, CSC connects the businesses with new customers. Signatory employers then compete for homeowner demand based on their track record and commitment to exceeding the baseline equity standards.

Woman examines two lightbulbs.

According to CSC, the current average wage of workers hired by signatory contractors is $18.18 per hour, with all workers receiving a raise during the first year of employment. Nearly two-thirds of workers hired by these contractors have opportunities for professional development, and over half of the workers receive a promotion during their first year of employment.


Photos taken by Wide Angle Productions, a social enterprise of Wide Angle Youth Media.