On the Northeastern edge of Missouri, a spectacular thing is happening. The local Community Action Agency has built and launched a new apprentice and workforce program, graduating certified Home Performance Laborers. This program brings new blood into the area weatherization program, creates crucial job opportunities and increased earnings potential for participants. It is a model of ingenuity and partnership, and we are excited to share a little bit about it today as we kick off a new blog series on Workforce Innovation in Weatherization!
The North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) serves 12 counties, nine (9) rural and three (3) metropolitan in Northeastern Missouri. The agency operates more than 60 different programs and since 1986 has grown its budget tenfold, from $2.5 million to $26 million. NECAC runs a robust Weatherization program and recently, much like the rest of the country, has felt the pressure of a tight labor market. Carla Potts, the Deputy Director of Housing Development at NECAC recognized it was going to take new, innovative approaches to recruit the workers needed to support the increase in funding to the Weatherization program resulting from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation (BIL); which allocated $3.5B to the WAP in addition to annual formula allocations. Her response to the workforce challenge was to create two new programs that leveraged partnerships.
Using established Weatherization workforce training guidelines, Carla Potts and NECAC’s partners built a Department of Labor (DOL) recognized Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) to solidify the agency view of weatherization work “as a career, not a job.” Partners included local vocational schools, workforce boards and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The apprenticeship program includes 144 hours of classroom training and 2000 hours of on-the-job training covering areas such as workplace safety, weatherization technology, asbestos, mold and much much more. A key part of this program is that participants are full employees of NECAC – they work and train 40 hours a week and receive 100% paid benefits. The wages are competitive at $16/hour and the 4/10 schedule (four ten-hour days) is a big selling point that offers flexibility to participants. Carla said the part of the process that surprised her the most was just how quickly they were approved by the DOL; the entire process took less than 30 days.
The second workforce program was a pre-apprenticeship program that leveraged Carla’s relationships with her local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) office and the local Pike-Lincoln Technical Center. The pre-apprenticeship program offers a two-week training, paid for by WIOA, with a strong focus on soft skills to help prepare people to enter the workforce.
People have taken notice of NECAC’s work and now it’s being replicated around the state. Robert Garber at Missouri’s State Weatherization Office is helping the process along by supporting another weatherization subgrantee in their application to the Department of Labor to codify their apprenticeship program, just like NECAC. Robert shared, “There is a lot of possibility around this program to expand and potentially become statewide. We are excited to see what the future holds.”
Not long ago the program graduated its first participants and celebrated with their families, former teachers, and program partners – Wade Johnson of the U.S. Department of Labor was on hand to present graduates with their certificates. It was an apt way to mark the end of one period and the beginning of the next exciting step in graduates’ careers.
From L, MO Division of Energy Dir. Craig Redmon; NECAC apprenticeship candidates Andy Mackey & Jacob Niffen; U.S. Dept. of Labor Apprenticeship & Training Representative Wade Johnson; NECAC apprenticeship graduates Thomas Branham and Clintan Caldwell; NECAC Acting Director Dan Page; NECAC Deputy Director for Housing Development Programs Carla Potts; Pike County Commissioner and NECAC Pike County Board Member Tommy Wallace; State Rep. Chad Perkins; NECAC Weatherization Director Joe Findley; and Assistant Weatherization Director Brittany Kidd.
As the graduates (who are both moving on to an energy auditing training program) continue their career journey, the program itself continues to grow. We at NASCSP are endlessly grateful to Carla Potts and Robert Garber for sharing all they know and making this great program accessible to the many who are interested in developing a strong workforce training program!
Sample DOL Application available upon request.