Workforce development is the process of recruiting and preparing workers to meet the needs of employers and putting the systems in place to promote success and advancement of workers over the span of their careers.

This toolkit provides workforce development information and resources applicable to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). It is organized by the different stages within workforce development and includes both resources and WAP-specific case studies for each. 

Funding Workforce Development

Many of the workforce development activities described on this page can help improve the quality and efficiency of your organization. As such it is important to plan and budget for this each program year. This section provides some ways that WAP organizations can fund their workforce activities.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) allocates Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) funding to Weatherization Grantees (states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and tribes). A maximum of 20% of the annual appropriation may be allocated to T&TA. These funds are primarily used to train and certify weatherization workers following employment or contract execution with a weatherization organization.
 
DOE will consider project proposals to use T&TA funds for recruitment and pre-employment training on a case-by-case basis. T&TA funds may also be used for evaluation of program outcomes and client education. For more information on allowable T&TA activities see the WAP for Low-Income Persons: Application Instructions, Section III.2 Budget Categories. 

Weatherization Enhancement and Innovation grants also provide an opportunity to secure additional funds for workforce development in WAP, specifically recruitment, training and retention of individuals and contractors historically underrepresented in the home performance industry. Additional  enhancement and innovation funding opportunity announcements are expected in 2023 through 2025 depending on annual WAP appropriations. 

Many weatherization organizations also supplement DOE funds with other funding sources such as U.S. Department Health and Human Services Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Community Services Block Grant, the U.S. Department of Labor programs and other sources detailed below. To extend the impact of WAP activities, you can find information and guidance on braiding funds from the DOE and leveraging funds form the National Community Action Partnership (NCAP).

Building a Workforce Pipeline

There are many factors that affect how easy or difficult it is to find workers. Some of these, like the broader state of the economy, are beyond the control of individual organizations or hiring personnel. But there are many steps that organizations implementing WAP programs can take to help grow the pool of potential workers and provide clear pathways for them into weatherization.

One valuable thing a WAP organization can do is to create local workforce and education partnerships. It is not only up to your organization to develop the talent you will need on your staff in the future; there are many organizations in your community that are engaged in working with populations that could be potential WAP workforce. 

Three examples of potential workforce pipeline partnerships highlighted in this section include: 

  • Apprenticeship programs 
  • AmeriCorps and other corps/service year programs 
  • High school and career and technical education (CTE) programs. 

Learn more about WAP organizations working with these types of partners in the case studies below and follow the linked resources to learn more about creating your own local partnerships.

Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship 

An apprenticeship is a highly structured workforce development approach that combines paid on-the-job training with related instruction, all supervised by skilled workers. Apprentices are employees of the company offering the apprenticeship and are provided with clear wage scales and career progression expectations. Pre-apprenticeships are a partner program, which provide a baseline of skills and job readiness to funnel trainees into an existing apprenticeship program. Although they can be open to anyone, pre-apprenticeship programs are often developed in partnership with high schools and community colleges, providing clear pathways for students to enter directly into stable career opportunities.

AmeriCorps/Corps/Service Year Programs 

Corps and other service year programs such as AmeriCorps, Jobs Corps, and others are run by locally based organizations that provide paid training to workers on projects that address community and environmental needs. A corps term of service can last a few months to a few years, and Corpsmembers are compensated with a stipend and often an education award. WAP organizations can hire Corpsmembers directly to supplement their permanent staff, or they can coordinate with existing corps programs that are providing training in related fields. 

K-12/CTE Engagement 

In 2020, more than 800,000 high school and community college learners participated in construction and architecture courses through the CTE program. Engaging with these high school and community college programs can provide both a pool of possible employees, as well as helping to grow the pipeline for future weatherization workers.  

Apprenticeship & Pre-apprenticeship Case Studies 

Missouri NECAC Weatherization Apprenticeship Program

In 2021, the North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) in Missouri developing and launched a one-year apprenticeship program for entry level retrofit installers as a way to grow its weatherization workforce. NECAC partnered with it local Workforce Investment Board and the Pike-Lincoln Vocational Technical School and used the existing WAP Job Task Analyses and training resources to craft the job description, educational content, and career pathway opportunities.

Social Development Commission Absolute Advantage Pre-Apprenticeship Program 

The Social Development Commission in Wisconsin operates its Absolute Advantage 12-week construction pre-apprenticeship program that includes OSHA 10, lead-safe practices, and weatherization basics. They partner with local community development and weatherization services to place their program graduates in jobs.

Corps Program Case Studies 

Ampact Minnesota Climate Impact Corps Home Energy Initiative 
Ampact is a Minnesota nonprofit that works with its state service commission to develop and support Corps programs throughout the state and scale them into neighboring states. In 2021, they piloted their Home Energy Initiative, a new branch of their existing Climate Impact Corps. The Home Energy Initiative placed AmeriCorps members with two weatherization organizations in Minnesota for one year to support work including client engagement, energy auditing, and solar PV efforts. In 2022, they are expanding this program to new locations in the state and working to develop more robust education and training for corps members.

CEO YouthBuild Program, New York
YouthBuild is an AmeriCorps-funded program that provides job training, employment, and high school equivalency support to youth ages 16–24 who are neither in school nor employed. The Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) in Troy, New York, runs a YouthBuild Construction program and is the local weatherization organization, and has been able to successful hire some of its YouthBuild program graduates to join its Weatherization staff.

Job Corps 
Job Corps is another program that offers free education and job training to at risk youth through their centers across the country. Their offerings include training in weatherization-related activities and is the avenue for deployment of the Home Builders Institute's pre-apprenticeship program.

K-12/CTE Case Studies 

Green Generation Workforce Development Initiative 
The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, a local weatherization organization, partnered with the University of Illinois and the Urban Efficiency Group to expand the offerings of the Green Generation program that provides residential energy efficiency training to high school students in the Chicago area.

The program offers home energy performance career exploration, education, and skills training, as well as broader leadership and understanding of sustainability and advocacy. Students participate in a paid summer training program for the three summers they are students, plus additional training during the school year. By the time they graduate, students can earn up to six certifications from the Building Performance Institute, including Air Leakage Control Installer and Infiltration and Duct Leakage. 

WAP Resource Links

National Association for State Community Services Program Wage Survey and Flyers 
In 2021, the National Association for State Community Services Program (NASCSP) conducted a wage survey for the WAP network with analytical support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The results from this survey include: 

  • Information on wages from participating states
  • A living wage calculator that any organization can use to determine if they are paying a living wage for their location)
  • State-specific and editable WAP career flyers that organizations can use to help in their workforce recruitment efforts. 

The survey is expected to be updated every two years.

Apprenticeship Resource Links
  1. Learn more about the benefits of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship for both employers and employees: Jobs for the Future—About Apprenticeship
     
  2. Find who to contact about creating an apprenticeship program in your state.
Corps Program Resource Links 
  1. Learn more about corps service programs.
  2. Search for corps programs in your area
  3. Learn more about YouthBuild program opportunities.
  4. Search for existing Home Builders Institute Job Corps construction and other trades programs
K-12/CTE Resource Links
  1. Learn more about CTE programs.
     
  2. Find and contact the director of your state CTE organization to find what architecture and construction programs exist in your region.
     
  3. Download the Better Buildings K-12 Engagement Fact Sheet to read best practices and access resources to help green building trainers and employers connect meaningfully to K-12 students and educators.

Hiring and Onboarding

Once you have successfully cultivated a pool of potential workers, there are many things you can do in the interview and onboarding process to help ensure that the people you recruited are a good fit for the job position, feel connected to your organization and mission, and are prepared to hit the ground running. These include writing effective job descriptions, conducting successful interviews, providing comprehensive and consistent onboarding to new staff, and promoting your organization as a workplace of choice.

The resources below from WAP and other sources provide information to support you in your hiring and onboarding efforts.

Energy Resource Center (ERC) Colorado
ERC recently updated their onboarding policies to ensure that all new staff received a complete tour and introduction to all staff on their first day, discussion about the organization and career ladder opportunities, and branded materials such as shirts and hats. ERC also assign key staff to regularly check in with new employees during their first few months to answer any questions and ensure that they feel welcome.

WAP Resource Links

Grantee Managers Training Toolkit
This toolkit was developed by DOE to compile WAP information and resources to support WAP program managers. It includes resources such as videos and the WAP Briefing Book that can help with onboarding.

WAP Job Task Analyses
The accredited training component of the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals project guarantees the existence and availability of high-quality standardized training programs within the home energy upgrade industry. This webpage provides information on accredited training centers and Job Task Analyses, which serve as the foundation for accredited training programs.

Other Resources Links

Better Buildings Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fact Sheet 
This fact sheet created by the Better Buildings Workforce Accelerator includes information and links to help organizations improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including websites to help identify gender bias in job listings.

Green Buildings Career Map 
The Green Building Career Map is an online interactive tool developed by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council with funding from the Building Technologies Office at DOE. The career map shows job opportunities and pathways within the green building and energy efficiency industries, including knowledge, skills, and certifications required for different occupations. This tool can be used by WAP organizations to help new staff understand career opportunities and pathways or to develop their own internal career ladder resources for staff.

The Manufacturers' Guide to Finding and Retaining Talent 
Although developed for the federally funded Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, this guide includes valuable information on recruiting and hiring new workers.

Training, Upskilling, and Professional Development

To be effective in helping WAP meet its mission locally and nationally, organizations must invest in opportunities for staff to gain new skills and earn and maintain certifications. The information below can help you and your staff find training to help them grow in their careers and better support your organization in its work.

Energy Smart Academy at Santa Fe Community College
Energy Smart Academy is a WAP Training Center located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that offers a wide variety of in-person and online trainings on home energy professional-specific topics as well as topics like healthy homes and cold climate heat pumps. Energy Smart Academy adapted the WAP Installer Badges Toolkit to award digital badges to staff as they acquired new skills. They found this a useful and cost-effective way to track and reward staff for professional development on a more regular basis. 

Accredited WAP Training Centers
Training centers are the formal providers of training and testing for certification for WAP field staff.

Online Weatherization Administrative Trainings for Subgrantees and Grantees
These free self-paced online trainings for both grantees and subgrantees cover the range of program administration roles and tasks.

Weatherization Installer Badges Toolkit 
The Installer Badges Toolkit was developed by DOE and NREL and offers a flexible and customizable approach organizations can take to recognize and track skill development for new field staff and/or contractors.

Standard Work Specifications (SWS) 
The SWS are the foundation for standardizing the safety and quality of all home energy professional work done on homes throughout the country. It can be used by organizations to identify skills that may need to be developed by their field staff.

Remote Mentorship Option for Quality Control Inspectors 
Grantees can request approval from DOE to adopt a remote mentorship training model for individuals working towards their quality control inspector certification. These individuals can conduct work such as final inspections, monitoring, and field data collection and have it reviewed and approved remotely by a designated certified quality control inspector mentor.

Staff Retention, Company Culture, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Staff turnover has real costs for an organization, both in terms of time and money. Focusing on staff retention can boost productivity and efficiency for your organization, as well as boost staff morale, which has many intangible benefits. Staff are the best possible ambassadors for weatherization, and their experience as an employee can impact the perceptions of clients, potential workers, and the community more broadly.

Northwest Colorado Council of Governments 
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is a WAP organization that did a complete overhaul to their approach to company culture to create opportunities for all staff to feel part of the company's mission. This is done through formal and informal opportunities for staff to share their perspectives, as well as staff profit-sharing from their fee-for-service programs, where all staff no matter what they job receive an equal "bonus" at the end of each year. They found these changes not only supported staff retention but resulted happier and more motivated employees.

Vermont Weatherization Minimum Wage
WAP organizations in Vermont were struggling with worker recruitment and retention, which was negatively impacting the organizations’ abilities to complete units and spend their allocated funds. Based on the information from NASCSP’s 2021 wage survey, the State of Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (the state WAP administrator) implemented a minimum and prevailing wage for weatherization field positions that went into effect on July 1, 2022.

This minimum wage applies to all crew, crew leaders, Energy Auditors, and Quality Control Inspectors, and will be updated annually based on Vermont Department of Labor prevailing wage listings. Within a month of the change taking effect, feedback from multiple organizations indicated that by listing this minimum wage in job postings, the organizations saw significantly more applicants for the open crew jobs, better quality candidates than prior, and with greater diversity.

WAP Resource Links

Living Wage Calculator 
In 2021, NREL coordinated with NASCSP to conduct a wage survey for the WAP network. The results from this survey include a living wage calculator, which any organization can use to determine if they are paying a living wage for their location. This tool will be updated every two years.

Other Resources Links

Homebuilding Workforce Engagement Study 
This study by the Building Talent Foundation surveyed mostly residential construction workers about their engagement with their current job. It also includes recommendations for retaining workers.

Better Buildings Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fact Sheet 

Information and Resources About Mentorship from the National Center for Construction Education & Research 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Info and Resources for Nonprofits from the National Council of Nonprofits

Succession Planning Toolkit from the University of Washington 

Working with Contractors

As much as three-quarters of WAP organizations utilize contractors and subcontractors for some or all their retrofit work. While approaches to working with contractors are different than internal staff, the relationships are just as important for organizations that rely heavily on contractors.

Bonneville Power Administration Comfort Ready Home
The Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest has a Comfort Ready Home program that connects utilities, weatherization organizations, and homeowners to make residential weatherization, HVAC, and other related repairs easier. It includes a Learning Center with free online training to help contractors gain skills and knowledge to meet changing customer needs. NeighborImpact is a WAP organization that has been able to better connect to and work with contractors through this program.

Illinois Statewide Procurement Strategy
The Illinois Office of Community Assistance (state WAP organization) and the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (local WAP organization), are working together to develop and implement a statewide procurement strategy for WAP. Their planned strategy includes conducting regional market analyses, developing standard procurement templates, and conducting outreach with contractors, vendors, distributors, and training partners across the state. The goal of this effort is to not only streamline the procurement processes for local WAP organizations, but also to educate the broader home construction industries about WAP, and the opportunities available to work together.  

WAP Resource Links

Online Weatherization Administrative Trainings for Subgrantees
The free, on-demand training includes courses on subcontractor management and procurement of services, as well as equipment and materials.

Other Resources

Although most training for WAP staff will come through weatherization-specific training (accredited training centers, online grantee and subgrantee administrative trainings, conferences, etc.), there are many free educational resources available that can establish and deepen baseline understanding of building science principles or other weatherization-related topics. These can be used as part of general onboarding, or to encourage staff to explore areas of interest.