The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed in November 2021, represents the largest climate investment in United States history. It provides over $62 billion for the U.S. Department of Energy to establish a multitude of programs that will support our nation’s infrastructure, workers, families, and competitiveness. Expanding people’s access to energy efficiency is among the core focuses of the legislation, as improved energy efficiency has been shown to reduce residents’ energy bills (especially low to moderate income residents), improve air quality and health, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will also create countless jobs across the infrastructure workforce and in energy efficiency – including home energy auditors; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians; water heater technicians; electricians; and general home performance contractors. While there is still room to improve the diversity of the energy efficiency workforce, these jobs being created by the IIJA offer numerous advantages. Many of these jobs provide more competitive salaries compared to all jobs nationally, even though they often do not impose barriers on individuals who lack formal education. In fact, according to the Brookings Institution, over half (53.4%) of infrastructure workers have a high school diploma or less, compared to approximately a third (31.7%) of all workers nationally.
Currently, many energy efficiency employers struggle to keep up with the demand for their services – largely due to experienced workers retiring at higher rates, as well as difficulties hiring new employees. Employers struggle to find qualified candidates to perform home energy efficiency and electrification upgrades because of a widespread lack of technical skills and industry-specific knowledge. For example, an individual pursuing a career as a home energy auditor (who evaluates the efficiency, health and safety of people’s homes) needs to gain on-the-job experience as a home services contractor and pursue certifications through the Building Performance Institute (BPI). Toward the beginning of their education journey, candidates may elect to pursue an entry-level certification like the BPI Building Analyst, while candidates with more experience may pursue advanced certifications like the HEP Energy Auditor.
Overview of the DOE Career Skills Training Program (CST)
To address these workforce challenges and reduce the barriers to entry for energy efficiency job seekers, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provided the U.S. Department of Energy with $10 million in grant funding to establish a Career Skills Training Program (CST). Under this new program, DOE will reimburse non-profit organizations and partnering labor groups, employers, educational institutions, workforce development boards, small businesses, and other organizations for up to 50% of the costs of their career skills training programs. The legislation specifies a cost share of 50% – meaning that eligible entities will pay half of the costs of the career skills training, while the other half will come from DOE.
Per the legislation, eligible entities should already have experience implementing and operating worker skills training and education programs. They should also be able to target individuals in communities that would benefit the most from energy efficiency training and education and have a demonstrated history of helping people find stable, good-paying jobs. Additionally, the IIJA specifies that recipients of federal cost-share funding under the Career Skills Training Program (CST) should provide a blend of both classroom instruction and on-the-job training. CST-funded programs should also help participating students obtain industry-relevant certifications that qualify them to install energy efficiency technologies in buildings and perform weatherization upgrades.
Career Skills Training Program: Funding Process and Timeline
Funding for the Career Skills Program is not yet available. While a formal date has not yet been announced, DOE estimates that applications will open in the first quarter of 2023. Also, funding will remain available to eligible entities until the full $10 million has been completely expended.
Currently, DOE is in an information gathering phase, and has requested public input on how best to structure this program through public roundtables, which it will continue to facilitate through early 2023. DOE also released a Request for Information on the Career Skills Training Program in December 2022, with responses due by January 26, 2023.
It is unknown whether Career Skills Training funding will be distributed through a competitive grant or formula (meaning each state would be eligible for a pre-determined amount). However, given that the overall amount of funding is relatively small compared to other IIJA programs, it will likely be competitive. Under that scenario, DOE’s next step would be to release a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) with additional program guidelines and details.
The $10M Career Skills Training Program complements other funds authorized for workforce training in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – including $200 million for the Residential Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Program, $40 million for the Residential Energy Auditor Training Grant, and $10 million for higher education institutions to establish Building Training and Assessment Centers. More information about these programs can be found on DOE website.
Everblue’s Robust History of Partnerships
Everblue is uniquely positioned to help implement the Career Skills Training Program. Not only does Everblue qualify as an “eligible entity” based on the legislative text, but we also have a deep history of implementing worker skills training and education in communities most in need. For example, Everblue has worked directly with community colleges like Fayetteville Technical Community College to administer the DOE Solar Ready Vets program – helping military veterans transition out of active duty and into careers in solar energy. Offering a blend of both classroom instruction and on-the-job training, this Everblue-supported program is a quintessential example of what DOE is looking to fund under the Career Skills Training Program.
During the period of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding between 2009-2011, Everblue worked with small businesses to train their employees and with workforce development boards to track and validate certification and employment after training. We also partnered with steelworkers unions to offer flexible scheduling to accommodate workers’ swing shifts.
In 2021, Everblue partnered with a Florida-based community action agency to train and certify weatherization contractors across the state in home performance and energy efficiency. We developed curriculums, trained participants, and provided technical assistance around energy efficiency topics ranging from whole-house energy auditing to building health and safety codes.
How Everblue Can Help Implement the Career Skills Training Program:
As a veteran-owned, fast-growing organization, our mission is to create a world where continuous growth and lifelong learning empowers careers, success, and a better life.
Everblue offers professional development and career enhancing certifications as well as a platform for managing online training, testing, and credentials – including testing for Building Performance Institute (BPI) certifications.
To learn more about how Everblue can help accelerate you and/or your employees’ careers in energy efficiency and take full advantage of this federal funding, check out our course catalog!