By Rebecca Stewart
The dynamic, music-filled city of New Orleans provided the backdrop for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 2011 National Weatherization Training Conference (NWTC) at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on December 13-15, 2011. Despite the enticements offered over on Bourbon Street, there were over 3,000 attendees, shattering the previous record number of attendees in 2009, which topped out around 2,000. Many old friends came, but many more new ones were made during the rich exchange of information at the conference.
The DOE NWTC, is held every two years to address the national training needs of the staff, trainers, and other individuals who contribute to the advancement of the WAP. In December, attendees included state and local decision makers, program managers, and technicians and provided opportunities to network with colleagues and share best practices among peers. From the pre-conference workshops on Monday to the closing plenary on Thursday, this event was guaranteed to inform and enrich.
With a dizzying array of offerings, just leafing through the 49 page extended agenda was daunting. Several pre-conference sessions provided half and full-day opportunities to immerse practitioners in new practices and techniques, from how to form a for-profit organization to mobile home basics to messaging strategies. The main conference comprised of 8 blocks of concurrent sessions, interspersed with networking opportunities, technical demonstrations, and time to visit the nearly 50 vendor booths in the cavernous exhibit hall. Ten tracks, including audits/diagnostic, building technologies, financial management, health and safety, leveraging/partnerships/future, mobile homes, multifamily, programmatic/management, public information, and training provided content for the whole spectrum of weatherization participants.
NASCSP was represented by several attendees, along with a booth in the exhibit hall showcasing our award-winning Weatherization Plus Health materials and introducing that project to the Conference. NASCSP Staff also presented several times, both at the pre-conference and in regular sessions, on public information, messaging, the SIRTT, and Weatherization Plus Health, as well as provided conference support through facilitating sessions.
A few highlights of the Conference were truly bittersweet. Jean Diggs was awarded a lifetime achievement award, justly deserved, which reduced many in the audience to tears as she wished us farewell as she retires.
Bob Adams opened the conference with a rousing recounting of the achievements of the network over the Recovery Act period, recognizing attendees for their hard work. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu even called in during lunch on Wednesday to congratulate the WAP Network on the great work being done. This event made one proud to be a part of such a supportive, successful program.
Presentations from the NWTC are available on WAPTAC (waptac.org) under “What’s New.” We hope to see you all at the 2013 National Weatherization Training Conference!