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Unemployed Truck Driver Trains for New Career in Weatherization

November 5, 2010 - 2:46pm

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Tyrone Bailey had been out of work for 14 months when an unemployment office staffer told him about a home-weatherization training program offered by the state of New Jersey.

The former truck driver and construction worker jumped at the opportunity to acquire new skills and began training January 19.  He graduated April 1 and won a position with GreenLight Solutions, a Montclair, New Jersey-based residential home improvement company just two weeks later.

“I worked there three months before I received the title supervisor and foreman,” Bailey says.  “It gave me a substantial raise and more responsibility.”

Now he oversees a crew of six that upgrades four to five homes a week.  “The houses we work on really need it,” he says of the insulation, caulking and inspections that the team conducts.  “All the time they tell us, ‘the house feels warmer already.’”

Skills for life

Bailey is just one of more than 120 graduates of the New Jersey Statewide Weatherization Training Consortium, a program launched in November of 2009 to help disadvantaged citizens gain job skills for the new economy. 

Funded by the Recovery Act dollars, the training equips students with life, employment and weatherization skills.  Beyond energy efficiency techniques, graduates leave the program certified in safety, first aid, scaffold use and hazard communications.

“Workers who obtain weatherization training require and deserve jobs that offer fair wages, promote worker health and safety, and offer career advancement opportunities,” says Kevin Smith, spokesman for the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 
 
“This program offers competency-based training in residential weatherization that is linked to essential skill sets in the broader construction, energy efficiency or environmental remediation industries,” Smith adds.

Filling the pipeline

In particular, the program was designed to meet the weatherization demand created by the state’s plan to bolster the energy efficiency of approximately 13,000 New Jersey homes. 

To date, just a fraction of the program’s weatherization goal has been met but officials expect a title wave of opportunities in the New Year, helped by the  commencement of production on low-income home weatherization projects through $30 million in ARRA funds provided to the State of New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) by the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

“It’s like a big ship,” says Robert Wright, manager policy, programs and planning, Division of Housing & Community Resources, State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.  “It takes a while to get it going, but once it gets going there’s no stopping it.”

Indeed, it has taken state agencies a year to ramp up—purchase vehicle, hire staff, initiate community outreach and identify the homes most in need of weatherization.  Finally, the focus has shifted from preparation to weatherizing homes, Wright says.

In anticipation of the NJHMFA funds distribution, the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is planning an event to introduce contractors to the weatherization program and to give the weatherization training-program an opportunity to sell its workers.

“It’s a good first step toward more energy efficient measures,” Wright explains.  “The influx of funding going from a small program of $7 to $10 million a year to $118 million under the Recovery Act makes people more aware of what they can do to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.”

For many, it’s also a good first step on the career ladder. “That’s always been the hope that people who have been trained can step into open market jobs in the field after the stimulus dries up. It’s a stepping stone,” Wright says.

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