Celebrating Newfound Skills for Building Green Futures Graduates
Chris Flynn and Pam Dincher
Friday, July 14th, 2023, was a day for celebration as participants from the first class of Building Green Futures took part in the program graduation ceremony. Team members from the Clean Energy Center, our program partner CASA, and graduates’ families and friends gathered to recognize their accomplishments.
Building Green Futures is a pre-employment training program that provides participants with the knowledge and basic skills required to enter a career in weatherization and building performance. The ceremony marked the end of their five-week journey which included in-class technical instruction and on-the-job training with a seasoned mentor.
Projections indicate that Pennsylvania will face a significant gap in the weatherization and building efficiency workforce over the next five years. Building Green Futures emerged as a direct response to this employment gap. To address this challenge successfully, the industry and its partners must expand their search beyond the conventional pool of individuals with construction or related skills. Looking outside of traditional methods for employee recruitment requires outreach to a wider, more diverse audience, and inclusion of new partners in every step of recruitment effort.
An integral aspect of Building Green Futures has been the collaboration with a community-based organization driven by a mission to help individuals discover meaningful, financially sustainable career opportunities. The Clean Energy Center established a partnership with CASA in York, PA, to aid in the recruitment of participants for the pilot program. CASA's core mission, catering to the Latinx community and the broader working class, centers around meeting the diverse needs, dreams, and aspirations of its members. With the dedicated staff at CASA taking the lead on recruitment, a small group of participants were assembled.
The first two weeks of technical training took place at the Clean Energy Center’s new instructional lab in Harrisburg, PA. Topics included OSHA 10 Safety, hand and power tool competencies, carpentry, air sealing techniques, and an overview of home performance careers.
During the training, participants practiced hands-on tasks aligned with several of the Retrofit Installer Badges developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab and U.S. Department of Energy. All four participants successfully met the criteria to earn their OSHA 10 Card for Construction.
The following three weeks offered practical experience guided by weatherization contractors. During this time, participants worked alongside an experienced weatherization crew leader in the field. This field assignment served as a mutually beneficial experience: the contractors had the opportunity to assess the participants' capabilities, while the participants gained firsthand insight into whether this opportunity aligned with their interests and aptitude.
Empowered by the program, each graduate played a critical role in building community awareness of the Weatherization field. This relationship between program and participant has brought attention and accessibility to the weatherization field, once unknown and seemingly out of reach to CASA’s membership base. Participants voluntarily provided positive feedback, exemplifying the program's impact on personal growth and skill development. Overall, the program has made a significant positive difference in empowering individuals to make a difference in the community.
The Clean Energy Center would like to recognize our program partner CASA, and field mentor partners MT Weatherization and Advanced Efficiency Worx for their invaluable contributions to the success of this program.