With home building at a near standstill and the government promising financial stimulus for energy-producing and conservation initiatives, a number of industry, private, and government cooperative programs have emerged to help builders and tradespeople get back to work.
Although these programs focus on residential construction, their mission is to train or retrain skilled trades to become "green-collar workers" for solar- and wind-power product installation, home-energy auditing, and other energy-related jobs with near-term employment and career-growth potential.
"A lot of training for green industry includes transferable skills from construction workers," says Chris Stoneman, who oversees Green Workforce Development for iCAST, a Colorado-based not-for-profit group that helps create and organize community-based sustainable infrastructure projects and employment training. "Our target audience is unemployed personnel. Some of the training requires specific skills, but our programs target people with GEDs [high school equivalency diplomas] up to professional architects."
Thanks to a Colorado Department of Labor grant, iCAST is currently offering training courses through June for residential energy-efficiency auditors and installers. An online version of the group's Solar Power Systems Installation course, offered in January, is under development. Information is available at icastusa.org.
The Home Builders Institute, a workforce development and training arm of the NAHB, is also focusing on retraining industry workers–and attracting and training new trainees–to green jobs.
"Our goal is to 'green out' our existing Residential Construction Academy programs with new textbooks and curriculums," says Carlos Martin, who heads up the NAHB's green-building training program. Classes now offered or in development include energy-efficient practices for indoor air quality, water conservation, home-siting, and educating homeowners and buyers about energy conservation.
While professional-certification retraining for green building and green energy skills has been available to NAHB members for over a year, "there's a whole lot of discussion" taking place within the organization on how to increase the amount and content of green programs, Martin says. For further details, go to hbi.org.