Faces of youth on colorful backgrounds represent Youth Apprenticeship Week

Youth Apprenticeship Week: Energy Efficiency Workforce Development

by Aileen Villa

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2024 Home Performance Conference (HPC) for the second time since entering the energy efficiency industry. This year, I engaged with several sessions in HPC ‘24’s Workforce Development Track. I gained insight from sessions thoughtfully titled “Registered Apprenticeships: Building Career Pathways in Energy Efficiency” and “Youth in Home Performance: What it Takes to Attract and Retain Young People,” among others.

Listening to the folks navigating apprenticeship and training programs in energy was very rewarding. I’m happy to share a bit about some organizations spearheading this important work.

First-ever Youth Apprenticeship Week
The Department of Labor (DOL) has convened National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) since 2015. This year, in addition to NAW, the first-ever Youth Apprenticeship Week (YAW) is being celebrated May 5-11!

For almost a decade NAW has shone a spotlight on the importance of registered apprenticeships across different labor sectors, including the energy industry. Now, DOL is bringing awareness to apprenticeships for youth to obtain a diverse set of skills and explore potential career opportunities. (Read my previous blog on registered apprenticeships and one mechanical insulation union’s apprenticeship program here.)

Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Role with Apprenticeships in Clean Energy
In the summer of 2023, Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) was chosen by the Department of Labor to lead a national coalition called Apprenticeships in Clean Energy (ACE) Network. Its goal is to “create, expand, and diversify [registered apprenticeship] opportunities in the clean energy industry.” Visit IREC’s site for the full press release.

Since then, IREC has expanded resources for apprenticeship creation in clean energy, such as through hosting webinars to inform industry professionals. IREC created a Registered Apprenticeships Toolkit for Clean Energy Employers, and the platform Green Workforce Connect to connect weatherization employers to more individuals across the nation, including youth.

At HPC ’24, IREC’s Dr. Janell Hills, alongside leaders from Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and EnerCity Collaborative, facilitated an interactive session that sparked enthusiasm and many conversations in the room. Topics included ways to support diverse groups of workers, including youth, with trauma-informed approaches that address any barriers to workers’ participation and progress. It was exciting to see eagerness rising among fellow attendees!

More on Apprenticeships and other Workforce Development Programs for Youth
E4TheFuture’s long-time partner (and host of HPC ‘24) the Building Performance Association (BPA) is doing great work to help interested organizations and businesses establish and implement workforce development programs. These include registered apprenticeships. Not only were there broader sessions at HPC ’24 focused on different elements of apprenticeships, but BPA also hosted a Q&A session offering personalized assistance and recommendations to interested attendees.

While at HPC ’24 I also learned from folks doing incredible work in centering youth in the industry, especially youth of Color, both in apprenticeships and in laying the foundations for working in home performance outside of apprenticeships. MIGIZI, Urban Efficiency Group, and the Green Careers Exploration Program from the City of Minneapolis spoke on providing mentorship to Black, Indigenous, and other youth of Color focused on clean energy and on laying foundations for careers in clean energy.

Thank you to all the groups making great progress on their commitments to engaging more youth, especially youth of Color, as part of their workforce development initiatives!

Shout out to the youth apprentices in energy efficiency, as well as youth interested in learning more about the industry!

–Aileen Villa is a Policy Fellow at E4TheFuture

Graphics: U.S. Dept of Labor (banner, logo); Photo: IREC’s Dr. Cynthia Finley (left) and Dr. Janell Hills (right) at HPC ‘24. Source: IREC LinkedIn.