This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Jennifer Gill got pregnant with her first child when she was in eighth grade. She didn’t finish high school, but she got her GED during a stint in prison for forgery. For most of her working life she was a waitress in and around the town of Oildale, a suburb of Bakersfield in the southern tip of California’s Central Valley. “We come from backgrounds where minimum wage is the best we can hope for,” she says. Then, four years ago, Gill happened to see a television commercial for a solar-panel installation course at a local community college.
Within a few weeks, the 46-year-old was out in the field, helping install photovoltaic panels for the engineering behemoth Bechtel and making more than $14 an hour. She quickly got another job installing panels for another solar farm, this time for over $15 an hour. Now she’s in an apprenticeship program with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and for the first time in her life she has retirement benefits. At her urging, her younger sister, who had lost her job at a ... Read more