Two staff and one visitor at union recruitment booth at career fair

Workforce Advancements in Energy Efficiency: Heat and Frost Union Apprenticeships

by Aileen Villa

Concentrated efforts in transitioning to clean energy from fossil-fuel-based systems are increasing rapidly. As we make this transition and work toward more advancements in clean energy, building up the energy efficiency workforce is a top priority.

As a newcomer to the energy efficiency industry (coming up on my one-year anniversary of entering the field soon!) with a background in labor justice, I was very drawn to workforce development initiatives across the sector.

I have been able to learn so much more about workforce development in the industry while delving deeper into these initiatives, participating in the social media campaign for #ApprenticeshipWeek last autumn, and amplifying the work of our Faces of EE. I don’t personally know folks who have participated in apprenticeships related to energy efficiency, but know many of my community members who are interested in these types of opportunities in our area.

I recently learned more about the efforts being made by unions and other organizations on apprenticeship programs. From on-the-job training to annual competitions testing their skills, there are many reasons why these initiatives deserve a spotlight!

Winner - Heat and Frost Union competition


What is the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW)?
They are a trade union based in the United States and Canada supporting workers from specific construction trades such as mechanical insulation, asbestos and lead mitigation or abatement. Workers in these trades are known simply as mechanical insulators, which HFIAW defines as a person who “applies insulation materials to prevent or reduce the passage of cold, sound or fire.” Check out their website to learn more about HFIAW and keep up with this trade union’s latest news.

As an association committed to ensuring that insulators are highly skilled, HFIAW runs a very well-rounded registered apprenticeship program.

About HFIAW’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee Apprenticeship
A registered apprenticeship is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a workforce solution. Employers create programs specifically to train workers to “create skilled workforces that meet the demands of the changing American labor market.”

HFIAW’s paid, four- to five-year-long program trains apprentices in mechanical insulation, giving them the opportunity to work in settings such as hospitals, schools, government agencies, and power plants. Over the course of their apprenticeship, trainees receive weekly classroom instruction and on-the-job training. After completing the required course and fieldwork, apprentices advance to “journeyman” status.

Student at classroom desk

From HFIAW’s YouTube channel.

HFIAW trains both current and future leaders of energy efficiency work. In a video published by HFIAW, registered apprentice Jamie Harms says, “I’m extremely proud to have a job where I can look back and have a beautiful product, and it’s good for the environment…” Folks hoping to start a career journey with an HFIAW registered apprenticeship can take pride in knowing that their work will be instrumental in further advancing energy efficiency.

Visit HFIAW’s site for informational videos on their registered apprenticeship, more information on how to get started as an apprentice, and more.

Heat and Frost seal

The Master Apprentice Competition
Because this work is incredibly significant, apprentices and their skills deserve to be celebrated, and HFIAW agrees! Every year, the Insulation Industry International Apprentice and Training Fund hosts the Master Apprentice Competition in which HFIAW apprentices across the U.S. and Canada are tested on their skills and knowledge of the trade. The competition starts at the Local level, followed by the Conference level, which then culminates in the final, International level. HFIAW believes that the spirited nature of the annual competitions not only fosters creativity within the insulation trade, but also solidarity among apprentices and journeymen alike.

Thank you to all the registered apprentices for all your hard work in energy conservation and efficiency!

–Aileen Villa is a Policy Fellow at E4TheFuture

Photos: International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers website, YouTube and social media posts. Top: BuildStrong Academy, Greater New Orleans career fair, staffed by members of Local 53 discuss the bright future available to union Mechanical Insulators. Middle: Winner of the Master Apprentice Competition.