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Grist 50

Samantha Tranfa, GRID Alternatives

Meet the fixer: This professional trains people for solar jobs.

The solar industry is doing better than ever, creating well-paying jobs across the country — but those jobs aren’t evenly distributed. Oakland-based nonprofit GRID alternatives offers job training for low-income communities and people of color to help make that cleantech boom more accessible.

Erika Symmonds is at the helm of those job-training programs. She oversees existing projects and makes sure new ones reach a more diverse workforce. “Who are the people in our community who can most benefit and are most interested in this opportunity,” she asks, “and how can we make that connection?”

Raised by a single mom in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, Symmonds grew up focused on getting a good education. “What I had was pretty unique: the option of leaving the neighborhood,” she realized upon graduating from Wellesley. Plenty of people she knew back home didn’t have the same opportunity.

Her work at GRID is already making a difference: More than three quarters of program participants are people of color.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.