← Back to Blog
June 15, 2023

LA Leaders Celebrate First Graduating Class of the Avantus Cleantech Career Academy

First-of-its-kind academy graduates its inaugural cohort, celebrating LA’s next generation of cleantech leaders with the help of Council President Paul Krekorian and others.

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Avantus (formerly 8minute) and UNITE-LA were joined by Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian on Monday to celebrate the first graduating class of the Avantus Cleantech Career Academy (Avantus Academy). Launched in 2022, the Avantus Academy prepares Los Angeles’ next generation to enter the cleantech workforce and tackle the region’s most pressing climate issues. Monday’s celebration recognized the academy’s first graduating class of 55 students who received hands-on apprenticeship-style learning and mentorship from leading cleantech employers across Los Angeles.

“I am proud of all the students who are standing up to join the fight against climate change,” said Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian. “The first graduating class of the Avantus Academy can serve as the vanguard of our clean energy future. I look forward to seeing the imagination and dedication they will bring to building a greener, more resilient Los Angeles and a cleaner, healthier world.”

The Council President met with students and recognized the key role their generation will play in shaping Los Angeles into our nation’s cleantech capital. The theme of building momentum for an inclusive cleantech industry was shared by speakers and students throughout the program.

“Today is a celebration of action,” said Dr. Tom Buttgenbach, Founder and CEO of Avantus. “Combatting climate change is the biggest challenge of our time, and the fight will require all of us. I’m immensely proud of this class of students for putting their passion and determination to work – and I am grateful to all of our partners from across the public and private sectors for helping us to create opportunities for ambitious young Angelenos to get involved in meaningful and constructive ways. The cleantech revolution is here, LA is its home base, and together we are fostering the next generation of leaders and doers.”

Throughout the 12-week program, academy students got an inside look at the local cleantech industry, with field trips hosted by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Southern California Edison, Chargie and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). Students learned directly from industry experts in hydrogen fuels, solar energy, hydropower and wind energy, with graduates gaining access to internship and job opportunities with academy partners.

“I joined the Avantus Academy because I want to pursue a career in sustainable environmental design. During the program, I saw that there are so many ways to have a job in sustainability and help make a difference,” said Andrea Abrego, an Avantus Academy participant and Climate Change and Environmental Studies student at West Los Angeles Community College. “The academy has helped me build the skills and relationships to be confident in pursuing my career goals.”

Ms. Abrego led a student panel with three of her fellow classmates — Leon Popa, Caleb Elzy and Athena Eull — reflecting on how the academy had shaped their understanding of cleantech and their career goals.

“These past few months have helped me bridge the gap between my university education and what is currently in demand in the clean energy and sustainability sectors,” said Leon Popa, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. “I’m so glad I got to learn, not only from professionals who are where I want to be, but also from my fellow students who brought such a range of perspectives to the experience.”

The student panelists were joined by their classmates as Dr. Buttgenbach presented the graduating class with a check to establish a scholarship fund for eligible students to continue their cleantech education beyond the academy.

“The scholars graduating today have shown their dedication to advancing their future opportunities and bettering their communities by pursuing green careers. I am so proud of each of them for making it this far and we cannot wait to see how they go forth and blossom,” said Alysia Bell, President of UNITE-LA. “This first cohort has set a high standard and we are grateful to our partners across Los Angeles who have joined together to help connect young Angelenos with green careers.”

Applications for the Fall 2023 cohort are now open to Los Angeles County residents between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. To learn more and apply, please visit https://avantusacademy.org/how-to-apply.

The academy is grateful for the support of leading companies and partners throughout Los Angeles. Here’s what people are saying about the Avantus Cleantech Career Academy:

Marryn Santucci, Community Engagement Advisor, Southern California Edison: “Congratulations to the graduates of the Avantus Cleantech Career Academy! Southern California Edison was honored to host this year’s students at the Edison Energy Education Center, where they had the opportunity to explore career pathways in the clean energy space. The future is bright for these young minds. Edison International is proud to be an engaged partner of UNITE-LA and its mission to advance equitable economic mobility.”

Cynthia Heard, COO, Los Angeles Urban League: “The education, job training and workforce development that the Avantus Academy provides is exactly what our communities need to thrive amid our city’s clean energy transition. The Los Angeles Urban League is proud to support this program and these students as they take their next step toward green, meaningful and well-paying careers.”

Christopher Vargas, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Chargie: “The Avantus Cleantech Career Academy is a transformative force in shaping the future of sustainability. By equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle environmental challenges, and by working closely with industry leaders, it empowers them to become change agents in their communities.”

Estelle Reyes, Senior Vice President, Enhancing Community, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator: “LACI is delighted to partner with the first Avantus Cleantech Career Academy, to advance our shared goal of building a workforce for California’s green energy future. We extend our congratulations to all of the graduates and are excited about supporting their bright futures.”

Father Greg Boyle, Founder, Homeboy Industries: “Workforce development is a critical component of Homeboy Industries’ mission to help redirect the lives of formerly incarcerated Angelenos and support their efforts to become contributing community members. With California’s clean energy sector set to create millions of new jobs over the next two decades, this exposure to industry knowledge, skills and hands-on experience that the Avantus Academy provides is setting students up for near- and long-term success.”

Stephanie Wiggins, CEO, LA Metro: “The Avantus Academy is bringing sectors together to collaborate on a sustainable and inclusive clean energy future for Los Angeles. By nurturing a new generation of cleantech workers, we are strengthening our workforce and fostering a culture of innovation and resilience as we transition to renewable energy. I am encouraged by the commitment shown by these students and look forward to seeing the impact they make on our city.”

For more information on the Avantus Cleantech Career Academy, please visit www.avantusacademy.org.


Avantus is shaping the future by making reliable, low-cost clean energy a global reality. Our legacy of leadership in next-generation solar energy includes developing the nation’s largest solar cluster and the first plant to beat fossil fuel prices back in 2016. Today, we are expanding the boundaries of existing technologies to build one of the largest portfolios of smart power plants with integrated storage, capable of providing 30 million people with affordable, zero-emission energy – day and night. Through our relentless pursuit of better, we are decarbonizing our planet at the gigaton level, and bringing the advantages of clean energy to all of us.

For more information, please visit www.avantus.com, and follow Avantus on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Over the past 25 years, UNITE-LA has been a trusted business intermediary, dedicated to supporting the development of an effective local public education system, so that all children and youth succeed in college, career and beyond. Through the intersection of programming, policy, and systems change efforts, UNITE-LA works to increase access to high-quality early childhood education, develop career pathways in high-growth industries, improve college access and success, and ensure workforce readiness, especially for individuals with high barriers into the workforce. Visit www.unitela.com for more information and follow UNITE-LA on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Katie Struble
Director, Corporate Communications

Photo: Business Wire

Originally appeared on BUSINESS WIRE