Sacramento Energy Lab Expands Knowledge, Career Opportunities

Corpsmember installs wiring with a light switch in the foreground

Sacramento Energy Corpsmember Damien Brierty works to wire a training station at the CCC Sacramento Energy Lab.

Growing up in Sacramento, Christopher Smith always had a fascination with how things worked. He would take a part his toys to see what went where and why. Now a 20-year-old, Smith’s fascination with how things work led him to explore career opportunities with the California Conservation Corps Energy Corps.

“What I would think of as a dream job is to work in construction and just run wires all day, just me, some music and working on a house,” Smith says. “I always wanted to do electrical work like this, but I never knew what door to knock on or go through. I thought I would have to wait years, save money and get a degree to get training like this. In fact, we’re paid to be here.”

Smith is a Corpsmember at the CCC Sacramento Energy Center, where he completes energy surveys and lighting retrofits at schools, government agencies, and non-profits buildings. He’s already learned the basics, but thanks to the CCC, CCC Foundation, and SMUD his knowledge is growing like he never expected.

“I used to go to the meter box at home and flip the breakers when we lost power. It’s cool now not to be intimidated by it—not be intimated by the wires. With this training, I understand it, even if I don’t know how to fix it all.”

Smith is among the first group of Corpsmembers to receive advanced training in the new CCC Energy Lab. The state-of-the-art facility features hands-on, interactive training stations designed to prepare Corpsmembers for their work at job sites and prepare them for future careers in the energy-efficiency industry.

“The partnership with SMUD and the CCC Foundation is creating the best and most efficient learning environment imaginable,” said CCC Director Bruce Saito. “This lab will help Corpsmembers find job and career pathways, so that they can go on to bigger and better things.”

The CCC, through the CCC Foundation, received a $75,000 SMUD Shine Award and another $25,000 from SMUD Sustainable Communities to build the lab. From SMUD’s perspective, the lab will help Corpsmembers reduce energy use in the short-term and in the long-term develop future leaders and thinkers.

“We hope the great minds that will someday run this organization at SMUD will get their start at the CCC Energy Lab,” said Jose Bodipo-Memba, Director of SMUD Sustainable Communities. “There’s so much talent in Sacramento and we need places, like the CCC Energy Lab, where that talent can be cultivated. The future looks really bright.”

Sacramento Energy Corpsmembers Marcelina Armas, Joe Armas Jr., and Damien Brierty display their finished and powered light bulbs in their training station at the energy lab. 

The CCC Energy Lab will train 18 to 25-year-olds from Energy Centers in Sacramento and Fresno. Corpsmembers are paid $2,700 a month and can earn up to $8,000 in scholarships each year they’re in the CCC. The training and hands-on experience can lead them to jobs with solar, HVAC, and electrical companies and local utilities.

“There’s a lot of things that I like about the CCC,” said Corpsmember Felicia Howard of Sacramento. “The CCC has offered a lot of training and classes and I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been here. As far as pursuing a career, I know that electrical work is always in demand. There are a lot of different directions I can go with the field. To have this hands-on training is very beneficial.”

The Energy Lab also has room to expand training into electric vehicle charger installation, HVAC repair, and solar installation. The CCC Sacramento and Fresno Energy Centers complete project work across central and northern California. And, the CCC is always recruiting to help Californians find their own path to success.

Sacramento Energy Corpsmember Felicia Howard examines conduit called EMT as she and other Corpsmembers are trained how to properly bend conduit for energy projects.