KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new weatherization training program will create a workforce of “21st century plumbers” in an area hit hard by unemployment, Representative Emanuel Cleaver II recently told a group of local laborers and union members.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Rep. Cleaver (D-MO) said. “This is one area where we can move—and move quickly.”
Some members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 264 will go through a 90-hour training course on performing home audits and retrofits in Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone, a 150-block, low-income neighborhood.
The weatherization training program at Local 264 will teach its members to use equipment to scan for air leaks, test drafty walls, check for moisture, and other techniques.
The city, which received $9 million as part of the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, aims to make over 2,000 homes in the Green Impact Zone more energy efficient, a move that will not only create jobs, but save residents money on their utility bills.
Many of the laborers have lost their jobs in commercial construction, an industry especially hit by the recession, so the new opportunities are welcomed.
“Our unemployment is so high. This is going to be a boost when this gets going,” said Bill Marsh, the training coordinator at Local 264, after the event.
Kevin Boydston, an instructor at Local 264 who demonstrated some of the weatherization techniques at the event with tools and a section of dry wall, said the goal is to reduce residents’ energy costs by about 30 percent per month.
LIUNA is preparing to train workers throughout the country to become weatherization installers, supervisors, and energy auditors. LIUNA represents about 500,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada; Local 264 has about 950 members.
“These are the ‘21st century plumbers’,” said Rep. Cleaver, pointing to about 15 union workers expected to take the weatherization training course. “This is the army of auditors who will be part of this new industry [to weatherize homes].”