Meet the Staff: Rick Held

Interview w/Rick Held about the Energy Corps Program at SEEED

Written by Taria Person
Posted by Treasure Hightower 


Welcome to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! Yesterday, I had the honor of interviewing the Director of Community Engagement at SEEED, Rick Held. The conversation was inspirational and refreshing. I experienced Rick’s passion for SEEED, green jobs, and community engagement, through his story and vision for our future. I would like to share some of the interview with you all. Enjoy! 


Taria Person: Hi Rick! Thank you so much for interviewing with me today.


Rick Held: My pleasure.


Taria Person: SEEED’s mission is “to create pathways out of poverty for young adults through career readiness training, while equipping communities with environmental literacy skills.” What’s your role, in regards to SEEED, and its mission? Also, could you tell the story of how your SEEED journey began?


Rick Held: My role as Director of Community Engagement, is to help our at-risk communities discover and claim our resilience.  It’s about recovering and preserving the economic and environmental health and well-being of our low-income and working class communities. We are the communities that tend to get hit first, and are affected the worst, as far as, climate change and extreme weather. Community engagement is about coming together to find our own ways to turn these threats into opportunities.


As far as my SEEED journey, it began after I was laid off as a social studies teacher at Austin East High School. I heard about people in the community who were excited about President Obama’s plan to bring green jobs to the community. The people I was hearing about were Stan Johnson (Director of SEEED), and some young leaders he was working with (Jerome Johnson, Jarius Bush, and Joshua Outsey). Next thing I know, I’m sitting in the back yard talking with these fired-up young men about knocking on doors to see if people were interested in green jobs. Indeed they were, as it turns out.


Taria Person: Thank you. Right now, SEEED is accepting applications for its Energy Corps Program. The program, essentially, has two major components: life and career skills, followed by job training and placement. What type of candidates are ideal for this type of opportunity?


Rick Held: The best candidates for this opportunity are people who are not afraid to work or get dirty, and who want to learn more about construction trades…that are interested in construction trades, especially in energy services, such as weatherization, solar, etc. A big plus would be to find candidates that care about their community, and realize that this is an opportunity to have a job that helps the community save energy, money, and the environment. A trifecta of benefits in one job. 


Taria Person: Essentially, the Energy Corps Program is a job. Could you give a brief overview of the application process through the successful completion of the program? Also, could you express why is it important to inform people that the Energy Corps Program is a paid opportunity?



Rick Held: Sure. The first round of applicants will be reviewed, and in that process, we are looking for people who have a strong work ethic. That’s who we are looking for! Then we’ll interview folks and answer their questions. We’re accepting up to twelve people to begin the program, which will be the career skills portion such as, job acquisition, confidence building, resume building, personal accountability, interview practices, professional attire, etc. 


We are still working out if the program will be a nine or twelve week program, but the classes and trainings are three afternoons a week. While they are in the program, they will receive a hundred-dollar stipend, and lunch is included! After the first couple of weeks, we will evaluate students to see if they are a good fit for the Energy Corp Program. 


If they are a good fit, we will place them with a construction contractor for a solid week of on the job training, to get a real world feel for the work. They will also take introductory construction classes in the classroom, as well as, have hands on project experience taught by contractors. After a full week of on-the-job training, the trainees will come back into the classroom to take energy services classes for Weatherization Retrofit Installation Technician and how to test for Building Envelope and Duct Leakage.  This will give them an extra skill set to make them more valuable to an energy contractor.


Assuming successful completion of those courses, the trainee will be placed in a full time entry level position with the contractor they were training with.


Taria Person: Wow! This definitely sounds like a great opportunity.


Rick Held: Exactly. It’s the real deal.


Taria Person: For 7 years, SEEED has only had a Career Readiness Program. What kind of impact does the Energy Corps Program have in relation to SEEED, the staff at SEEED, and the community?


Rick Held: The impact that the Energy Corps Program has on SEEED, is that it is making us get more real about our mission, regarding pathways out of poverty through environmental literacy. There are all kinds of training programs in the community that will train people in certain skills, but there aren’t as many that will be able to place people in real jobs based on the skills they learn from the program. This is where we think SEEED stands out. We are actually working with contractors to design a program that imparts the skills that the contractors want, in order to hire the most qualified trainees after the program.  


Taria Person: That was a really great response.


Rick Held: (Laughs) Thank you!


Taria Person: What are some things that people can expect from the future of SEEED? And what makes you the proudest in your role at SEEED?


Rick Held: You can expect that people from city hall to the hood are going to recognize that SEEED is the real deal, when it comes to developing young people to make positive contributions to this community. What I’m most proud of are two things. First, that we’re still doing this, better than ever after eight years…starting in Stan’s backyard. I mean people didn’t know what to think of us six or seven years ago, and really didn’t take us seriously. But we’re proving them wrong! Second, there has been, and are so many people doing great things in the community, and other communities, that came from SEEED’s program. They are really doing great things out there, which includes the work that you are doing. 


Taria Person: Awww thanks.


Rick Held: It’s true! Thank you for this interview. 


Taria Person: Its been a pleasure. 


If you know of anyone who would be interested in the Energy Corps Program, have them apply at the SEEED location at 1617 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915. Look forward to seeing you all soon. Until next time, keep growing! 



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Posted in Career Readiness, SEEED's Weekly Voice.