"While the potential for creating a new clean energy workforce is much discussed, the real work is in training and placing workers into our industry in various rungs of the career ladder."
Northwest Energy Efficiency Council
SkillUp created the Northwest Energy Efficiency Opportunities Project (NEW OP) to bring community, government and college partners together with industry representatives to ensure training is driven by employer skill needs and leads directly to career opportunities in the sector. The main goal of the collaborative effort was to develop an industry-driven workforce strategy that:
1) Responds to labor market demands of employers;
2) Improves and builds upon existing training opportunities in energy efficiency; and
3) Creates opportunities to lift people out of poverty and onto pathways toward living wage jobs.
Far-reaching impact on residential weatherization projects: NEW OP's residential subcommittee developed a framework for "high-road" weatherization standards to ensure that retrofits are consistently high-quality, training programs meet a standard of excellence, and contractors hire from a diverse applicant pool.
NEW OP's framework and the initial standards the group set were used as the foundation for the following:
- Hiring, training and contractor quality assurance standards for $11.2 million ($33 million with leverage) in retrofits through the city's Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant
- Hiring and training standards for $8 million in retrofits through the city of Seattle's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- Hiring and training standards for all weatherization projects in King County Housing Authority homes
Leveraged federal grants for green jobs training:The Puget Sound recently received several federal grants totaling over $10 million for job training. The work of NEW OP and the high level of employer engagement directly helped leverage one of these grants, totaling $3.9 million. NEW OP's work has also helped jump start planning for all recent grants and has put the region ahead of the curve in coordinating workforce approaches in this industry.
Going beyond workforce: NEW OP began as an industry partnership focusing on workforce issues in the sector, but meetings provided a forum for broader questions around sector demand drivers, local and national policy changes, rate structures, and other issues that are pertinent to this emerging sector. NEW OP also brought together the diverse types of employers involved in energy efficiency (utilities; construction; building management; energy service providers) who might not otherwise have the opportunity to convene and share information.
SkillUp Washington’s work in the energy efficiency sector is made possible because of a multi-year grant from the philanthropic collaborative, Living Cities.
Major partners include the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, Seattle Jobs Initiative and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.
PROGRAM IN FOCUS
In early April, a dozen students graduated from the Level 1 Commercial Energy Auditor training program at South Seattle Community College Georgtown campus. The 160 hour course provides underemployed and displaced workers with a new pathway to employment in the energy efficiency labor market by teaching the basics of auditing a commercial facility for energy use. Graduates are able to create, review and assess existing EnergyStar Portfolio Manager files, perform basic lighting audits, identify HVAC systems and controls and report field condition and performance issues. They are also able to provide meaningful data to an energy engineer.
SkillUp Washington and its partners, including the Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council, provided funding for the development of the training curriculum. South developed the coursework based on input and review from members of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Opportunities Project (NEW OP). NEW Op is a workforce intermediary that was created by SkillUp Washington in 2009 to bring community, government and college partners and industry representatives together to ensure training is driven by employer skill needs and leads directly to career opportunities in the sector.