September Climate Leader: Hollie Lee

Our Climate Leader for Hollie Lee, Chief of Workforce Development Strategies for the City of Charlottesville! She helped the Better Business Challenge grow its mini-grant program for low-income business owners in the City; continues to partner with LEAP and the solar industry on workforce development with her GO programs; and is a strong advocate for smart business solutions to save energy! Check out our interview with Hollie in this blog.

  1. How did you get involved in environmental stewardship within the business framework?

As staff in the City’s Office of Economic Development, I have had the opportunity to work with Teri Kent for over seven years on the Better Business Challenge. During this time, I’ve been able to help City businesses learn how they can incorporate sustainable practices into their businesses in order to improve their bottom line. Additionally through my work, I’ve been able to partner with a lot of great area employers to help them find qualified candidates for jobs in green industries. An example of this was the development and implementation of GO Solar, a workforce development training program that prepared individuals to become solar panel installers with Sun Tribe Solar.  

2. What are you hopeful about right now?

 I am hopeful that the City of Charlottesville is moving towards more aggressive goals for climate action, thus setting an example for other organizations in our community to follow. With increased interest and implementation of goals, comes more opportunity for training and employment opportunities for the residents of Charlottesville and contracting/sub-contracting potential for businesses in the area. Not only is climate action/protection the right thing to do for the environment, but it can also create significant economic opportunity in the community.

3. What is one thing that is holding the state or local business community back from greater progress on implementing climate solutions?

 From a workforce development perspective, I believe that the lack of interest in skilled trades jobs, which are often the types of entry level positions available in the green industry, could potentially hold the Charlottesville community back from making greater progress in the field. When recently trying to recruit for a new GO training program focused on weatherization, we had difficulty finding people interested in doing this type of work – it often requires physical labor to be done in extreme weather temperatures. Although this work can be difficult, I believe that it is an excellent entry point for individuals who want to progress in this growing industry. If there are not enough people who are willing to be trained to do this type of work, the capacity for doing such work is less, and therefore, implementation gets slowed down.

4. What is a climate action personally or professionally that you are proud of?

I am proud of the GO Solar program that was previously mentioned. It was an opportunity to create a new training program in partnership with a great City employer, Sun Tribe Solar, while also helping individuals in our community gain access to green jobs paying a self-sufficient wage. The program was rigorous, including over 150 hours of training on topics such as the fundamentals of photovoltaic installation; forklift and aerial lift instruction; OSHA 10; CPR/First Aid; and workplace readiness. For those who successfully graduated from the program and were hired by Sun Tribe, the experience has been life changing.

 5. What is one thing a business can do today to help reduce climate pollution?

 I would highly encourage businesses to familiarize themselves with C3 and sign up for the next Better Business Challenge when it launches. Through C3 and the Challenge, businesses of any size will have access to resources that will help them learn how to use energy more wisely and become more energy efficient. For instance, by participating in the last Challenge, several City businesses received mini-grants that enabled them to upgrade to more energy efficient lighting. This not only improved the aesthetic look and feel of their storefronts, but it will also result in less energy consumption and energy cost savings over time.

6. This is challenging work.  What is your favorite way to recharge and rejuvenate?

 When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and my dogs.

Teri Kent