Summit Academy - Will Steger's Own Words

My call to action to climate change was in March of 2002 when the Larson B ice shelf in Antarctica disintegrated. I took this very personally. Thirteen years before, in 1989, it took my international team 15 days to cross the Larson B by dogsled. To read about its sudden disappearance really shook me up. The real tragedy of this catastrophic event was that it went largely unnoticed.

Later that year I left Ely to set up my home base in Minneapolis. My goal was to help start the climate movement; to accomplish this I set up a non-profit that later would be known as Climate Generation. I collaborated with other non-profits, media outlets, corporations, utilities and political leaders to pass the Next Generation Energy Act in 2007, which set the State of Minnesota on track for 25% renewables by 2020. This jump-started the multi-billion-dollar clean-energy industry in the state that we have today. 

Twenty years ago I understood clearly that we would need a whole new workforce to build climate-resilient infrastructure. We could reduce carbon while creating good-paying clean-energy jobs. These new high-paying jobs would be an important part of the solution to climate change.  

We are now seeing this happen. There is a demand for skilled tradespeople that cannot be filled. Anyone who has the determination and the skills can join this workforce and attain middle-class pay. These jobs will not go away. This is the economy of the future and it offers a path to prosperity for both people and the planet.

In 2008 I was co-chair, along with Louis King (founder of northside’s Summit Academy OIC), for HIRE—Healthcare, Infrastructure, and Renewable Energy. At the time we were organizing in the Black, Native American and Asian communities to maximize government dollars and hiring equity for clean-energy jobs. Mr. King introduced me to the staff at Summit Academy, where I proposed developing a partnership with the Steger Center. Since then, through a series of pilot programs, we have developed a certified on-the-job-training program at the Center. We provide a 3:1 student-to-instructor ratio based on the Master-Apprentice model, with a focus on deep mentorship. All instructors are masters in their fields and trades.  

The program empowers students/apprentices to take responsibility for every part of what they are learning. Hands-on experience with the guidance of master instructors provides students with knowledge and skills and fosters belief in themselves and what they are able to accomplish.

Learning at the Steger Center is not confined to a traditional workday. It isn’t just about gaining skills and knowledge. It’s about witnessing and actually living in a more balanced, sustainable, and fulfilling way with the natural world, and with each other in community.

This summer the Steger Center, in partnership with Summit Academy OIC, will provide six weeks of programming for job-ready skills, training and empowering the workforce that will help build a climate-resilient future.  

Summit Academy Gallery