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Practice Makes Perfect

January 04, 2011
January/February 2011
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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When members of Efficiency First, the national trade association representing home performance contractors, energy auditors, and related businesses, were surveyed last spring about their present and future staffing needs, the most consistent message reiterated by survey respondents regarding training for residential retrofit jobs was that many existing training programs do not prepare trainees adequately for work in the field. (For information about a new service that Efficiency First offers to its members, see “New National Job Board for the Home Performance Industry.”) “So much of the training we see advertised out there is just awful,” one particularly outspoken employer wrote in his survey response. “Can you imagine someone auditing your home who had a three-day course, including blower door, IR camera, combustion appliance zone (CAZ) safety work, and all the other stuff they need to know? It’s nuts. I wouldn’t let them near my home.”

New National Job Board for the Home Performance Industry

Efficiency First has launched a new online resource to match qualified employees with job openings in the home performance industry. The web site at http://jobs.efficiencyfirst.org provides a national forum for listing current employment opportunities in all aspects of the home energy retrofit business, including energy auditors, field technicians, and administrative staff.

Use of the site is free to job seekers, who may post resumes, search for open positions, and set up automatic notification of new listings based on location, job category, salary range, and experience level. Employers who join Efficiency First at the annual membership rate of $250 may post unlimited job listings on the site for no additional charge.

The Efficiency First Job Board was developed in partnership with CleanEdison, Incorporated (www.cleanedison.com).

For more information:

To learn more about the job board, go to http://jobs.efficiencyfirst.org.

While classroom study can be an effective way for trainees to learn basic building science principles and terminology—and how to operate diagnostic equipment and other technologies used in the field—the survey showed that employers are not impressed with training programs that squeeze too much information into a few days of classes, with little time for practical learning.

Many of the contractors surveyed stressed the importance of boots-on-the-ground experience to expose workers to different circumstances, and to teach them how to deal safely and professionally with different kinds of problems encountered in real homes. Furthermore, many indicated that they seek employees who already hold advanced professional credentials, including BPI Building Analyst (45.1%); other BPI certifications, such as Heating, Envelope, and Air Conditioning and Heat Pump (31.9%); HERS Rater (20.7%); and HERS Rater II (13%).

According to Green Jobs in the Residential Energy Efficiency Industry, an in-depth report based in part on the Efficiency First workforce survey, the need for more effective on-the-job training and mentorship is especially relevant for trainees new to the industry who have little or no background in residential construction, appliance repair, or remodeling. Important skills cited include equipment use and maintenance, air sealing, insulation materials and techniques, code compliance, HVAC, electrical work, plumbing, knob-and-tube wiring mitigation, moisture and mold abatement, asbestos removal, and lead paint protocols, among others.

The Green Jobs report, which was produced by Efficiency First’s nonprofit research arm, the Home Performance Resource Center, also called for training organizations to teach other relevant skills that will make trainees more effective on the job. These include modules on health and safety, professionalism, sales and customer service, problem solving, software and energy modeling, local incentive or utility program rules and requirements, basics of energy conservation, and complementary skill sets, such as installation of PV systems or solar water heaters.

As the energy retrofit business continues to grow and evolve, it is essential for regulatory agencies, training providers, and industry leaders to work together to develop a top-of-the-line workforce for the home performance industry.

Jared Asch is the national director of Efficiency First, a nonprofit trade association for the Home Performance industry.

For more information:

Green Jobs in the Residential Energy Efficiency Industry and the 2010 Efficiency First Workforce Survey are available online at  www.hprcenter.org.

For more information about Efficiency First, go to www.efficiencyfirst.org.

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