Is This the Next Gen of Energy Efficiency Building Designers?
Originally published by: Builder Online — February 13, 2018
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Thanks to a new program, young adults from low-income neighborhoods in Tennessee are receiving technical training in energy-efficient home construction practices, including weatherization, sustainability, and basic home upgrades.
On Jan. 29, the inaugural class of GreenSpaces Chattanooga’s Build it Green workforce development program held its first training session in Chattanooga, Tenn. The program’s goals are manifold: to meet the demand for skilled labor in the home construction industry, to prepare low-income young adults for construction trade employment, and to provide low-income communities with engagement and access to sustainable practices and programs, says project manager Christian Shackelford.
Over the course of the 12-week program, ten participants will receive six weeks of community engagement, personal development, and job readiness training, followed by six weeks of technical training, with weekly job shadowing and off-site job training opportunities. Participants will be paid $10 per hour for three days per week, four hours per day. Paid job shadowing opportunities and job placement assistance will also be available to participants.
BUILDER sat down with Shackelford to talk about the program’s impact on the Chattanooga community.
What are GreenSpaces’s current goals and efforts?
GreenSpaces is focused on sustainable living, working, and building in Chattanooga. We aim to make Chattanooga a leader in sustainability for benefit of the environment and the people of our community. From building cost-effective net-zero energy homes to helping our low-income community save energy in their own homes, our goals are focused on what we see as the most important sustainability issues in our city.
How did you and GreenSpaces come to form the Build It Green program?
Build It Green evolved organically, connecting the dots between our net zero construction and our low income utility education program. With over a decade of experience in both green building in Chattanooga and helping families in need afford utilities in their homes, it was only natural to want to train a demographic in need of jobs with a growing industry in need of employees.
The Build It Green program is a community effort, supported and run by multiple individuals and organizations in the south east. Stan Johnson’s program SEEED, Socially Equal Energy Efficiency Development, was in many ways an inspiration for our program as a work force development program focus on sustainability. We use SEEED’s format as a template for our own program to then take advantage of our expertise and relationships in the building industry. SEEED continues to be a supporter to the BIG program and has been a great partner along the way.
How is the program structured?
The program is roughly divided into three parts, which we are developing simultaneously. They are:
--Soft skill capabilities, which will help our trainees, improve the ability to communicate in the workforce and manage life issues that interfere with success in the workplace.
--Technical skills, which will educate our students in the whole house model of construction and home performance giving them an edge in the entry level construction fields and prepare them for a developing career field.
--And finally community engagement as it relates to housing issues and energy justice.
Participants will walk away with a certificate of completion of our program having been trained in all three of these fields, a certification from the Building Performance Institute, and most importantly the support of a team and a community of business in the world of sustainable construction
What has the response been so far?
We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from our community both from the applicants and the businesses who we hope to place them with after the program. Universally, contractors we have approached about the program have committed to helping with the program from simply getting the word out, to hosting specialty trainings, and evening committing to give internships and considering hiring students from the program.
Do you anticipate expanding this program in the future?
In 2018 we plan to host two rounds of trainings. Each individual from this session will receive coaching and support after the program to help improve their chances of landing a long-term career in their trade. We would like the program to stay an intimate size for the time being, but we hope to magnify the impact of the program by also focusing on effecting the market place and increasing the demand for sustainable construction and socially equal job opportunities.
We think that the multi prong approach to our training will not just open up job opportunities but life long career opportunities. The program has the potential to change a job crisis for individuals and a work force crisis for an industry.
Do you foresee more programs of this kind working in other parts of the U.S.?
I think that sustainability in construction is just getting started, especially in low-income communities where old housing stock is the norm. Increased frequency of global climatic events such as extreme cold and hot seasons will highlight the need for efficiency and high performance. As home performance becomes more commonplace it also becomes more affordable and accessible, which opens the doors to a much larger housing stock. This will bring about a need for education and training to meet the demand. In our low-income community we have a workforce ready to be trained and introduced to new career paths. The industry will most definitely see programs like this becoming prevalent in the future.