Opportunities Are Heating Up for PA’s Weatherization Workforce
Every year, Pennsylvania celebrates National Weatherization Day on Oct 30th and the accomplishments of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Over the last 43 years Pennsylvania’s program has helped to weatherize more than 540,500 homes and resolved over 137,000 heating crisis emergencies.
WAP services focus on finding and fixing air leaks, making health and safety repairs, reducing electricity use, and educating families and individuals about energy efficiency. The program’s goal is to help low-income families cut energy costs, improve health, and maintain a safe home environment. This year, in honor of the program, we are focusing on the job opportunities and training available for the subcontractors working in weatherization and the energy efficiency industry.
Workforce Training in Weatherization and Energy Efficiency
The hardworking men and women that fix weatherization problems play an important part in our communities. Their skills, dedication, and experience are a critical component of successful WAP projects across the state. The teams involved in WAP projects and other weatherization-related activities directly change the lives of their neighbors and communities through their work.
Working in the energy efficiency industry requires special training and certifications. Individuals can earn their certifications at the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s National Sustainable Structures Center (NSSC) in Williamsport, PA. NSSC is a nationally-recognized U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) legacy training center offering training and technical assistance to home energy professionals, commercial building operators, government, utility companies, and other partners working in building performance.
To work on WAP projects in Pennsylvania there are a variety of certifications you can earn through NSSC’s Home Energy Professional (HEP) training programs. Employees and subcontractors of WAP agencies are eligible for no-cost training and certification through NSSC. Individuals that are not yet working with a WAP agency can sign up for the training programs for a fee.
There are many specialists involved in weatherizing homes. Training and certification is required for certain job titles. Energy auditors focus on energy efficiency, health, and safety issues. These team members do diagnostic testing to identify a home’s weatherization problems and create a plan with recommendations on how to fix them. Retrofit installer technicians install energy efficiency upgrades in a customer’s home. The retrofit installers are led by a crew leader who acts as supervisor and coordinator for the project team. After the installers complete their work, quality control inspectors review the project and conduct a final audit and testing to ensure the energy efficiency upgrades meet all necessary standards.
When it comes to the actual work of weatherization, each household’s plan is customized to address their specific problems. Upgrades might include installing insulation, sealing and repairing cracks or problem areas for air leaks, or fixing ventilation. Work might also be done on the home’s heating system, including in some cases outright replacement. Additional actions, like changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs, low-flow shower heads, and faucet aerators, might also be part of a larger weatherization plan. Educating customers about how to keep their energy use low is an important part of a weatherization plan and has lasting impacts even after the initial project is completed.
Building Skills for the Future
Completing training and earning certifications in weatherization has long-term benefits for those working the field. Weatherization is part of the larger energy efficiency industry, which is made up of the businesses offering goods and services that lower energy use through improved technologies, appliances, building, and energy systems.
According to a recent report by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), energy efficiency is the fastest growing job sector in the U.S. energy industry, accounting for nearly half of the entire energy industry’s new jobs in 2018. And job opportunities are expected to grow, with U.S. energy efficiency businesses expecting to see 7.8 percent growth in jobs in 2019. Trends over the last two years in Pennsylvania alone help to support this estimate, as the state has experienced a 10 percent growth in energy efficiency jobs between 2016 and 2018.
Many energy efficiency jobs are directly involved in construction. Of the 2.3 million U.S. energy efficiency workers, 1.29 million (or 56 percent) are in construction jobs. And more than 1 out of 7 U.S. construction workers spend 50 percent or more of their time on energy efficiency. In Pennsylvania, 14 percent of all construction jobs are involved in energy efficiency. The majority of Pennsylvania’s nearly 69,000 energy efficiency jobs fall into HVAC (34,994), ENERGY STAR appliances and efficient lighting (14,286), and building materials and insulation (13,105).
Working in weatherization can open the door to many opportunities in the growing energy efficiency industry. For individuals with a passion to improve the quality of life in their communities and looking for a career with growth potential, earning credentials through NSSC’s training programs is a great pathway to consider.
To learn more about DCED’s Weatherization Assistance Program, visit the DCED website or to see if you qualify for assistance, connect with one of our weatherization partner agencies serving your county. To learn more about how WAP projects help communities around the state, check out our case studies located in Allegheny, Blair, and Schuylkill Counties. Make sure you sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on all of our Pennsylvania news and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Alison Diehl is the director of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s National Sustainable Structures Center, and is responsible for NSSC’s training programs and technical assistance services in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. She is a key member of the PA Weatherization Assistance Program’s Policy Advisory Council, a member of the National Weatherization Trainers Consortium, and helps guide the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals as a member of the Crew Leader certification committee.