Empowering Weatherization Professionals: A Success Story from Southwest Georgia Community Action Council

Dusniel Alvarez, the Housing and Energy Director at SW GA Community Action Council, shared the workforce challenges he has faced as a director of the WX program since 2015. The discussion centered on the hurdles in recruiting and retaining skilled Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) professionals and the innovative solutions he implemented to drive workforce development within his program.

The Challenge

Mr. Alvarez shared his insights into one of the primary challenges that had been plaguing his efforts – finding individuals who not only possessed the physical capability for demanding tasks (working in attics and crawl spaces) but were also willing to embrace training and flexibility. Often, potential candidates with extensive construction backgrounds were hesitant to adopt new methods, delaying production in the process.

However, a more urgent issue revolved around the insufficient wages offered. With other industries and positions paying more, Mr. Alvarez acknowledged the stark reality that even loyal employees would eventually seek opportunities elsewhere if their compensation didn’t reflect the demanding nature of the job. One example was provided by Alvarez, who had invested considerable time and effort in training his successor, only to see the individual opt for a maintenance job offering a mere dollar more per hour. The program was confronted with the departure of some of its WAP field crew to better-paying jobs, resulting in a decline in WAP production. The organization’s leadership was cautious about raising wages for WAP workers due to potential impacts throughout the organization and the effect it could have on other programs.

The Solution

Mr. Alvarez’s innovative approach began with utilizing the insights provided by the NASCSP WAP Wage Survey. Armed with data illustrating average wages for the core WAP positions – Retrofit Installer (RIT), Crew Lead (CL), Energy Auditor (EA), and Quality Control Inspector (QCI) – he initiated discussions with both management and the board to advocate for wages that aligned with the cost of living in their area. With NASCSP’s WAP Wage Survey data as a cornerstone, he successfully advocated for an increase in wages, an impressive raise of an extra $5 per hour for each position.


This strategic move resulted in a flood of applications from enthusiastic candidates seeking a fair wage for their demanding roles. The program adopted a strategic hiring process, bringing in groups of three RITs at a time. These recruits underwent a 3-month probation period, during which they were provided ample training and mentorship. The organization’s investment in Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) further facilitated the growth of Retrofit Installers into Crew Leaders, and subsequently, other BPI (Building Performance Institute) certifications. Over time, the program cultivated a path for RITs to evolve into Energy Auditors, offering them additional salary incentives as they secured certifications. This tiered approach allowed field crew members to grow at their own pace, while simultaneously elevating the quality of the workforce.

The Impact

Mr. Alvarez’s visionary strategy yielded results as SW GA Community Action Council witnessed a transformative impact on their weatherization program. The program expanded from a single crew to now having two fully functional crews, alongside three energy auditors in training. In addition, the program engaged nine contractors to augment their WAP staff, ensuring the program’s stability and scalability. The integration of contractors was facilitated through a year-long contractor retention agreement, along with extensive training in the nuances of WAP. The results were remarkable – SW GA’s production exceeded the contracted unit expectations, enabling the organization to serve a larger number of low-income clients. This surge in productivity allowed SW GA to achieve its goal of already completing its BIL unit production for the initial 15% of allocated funds. Eager for more, the program awaits the next portion of 35% to further elevate its impact on the community.

Pictured from left to right: Dusniel Alvarez (Housing director), Jahdiel Pupo (Auditor in training), Randy Weldon (CEO), Eduardo de la Paz (Auditor in training), Misael Chang (Weatherization RIT), Wilber Valdivia (Weatherization CL)

The success story of SW GA Community Action Council underlines the transformational power of strategic workforce development within the Weatherization Assistance Program. By addressing challenges head-on and advocating for equitable compensation, Mr. Alvarez and his team have not only retained talent but also attracted new individuals eager to make a meaningful impact. Their journey demonstrates that investing in human capital can yield exponential results, uplifting both the workforce and the communities they serve. As we celebrate their achievements, let us recognize that innovative strategies like those employed by SW GA CAC pave the way for a brighter future in the realm of weatherization and beyond.