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From Volvo to a Career in Virginia's Weatherization Industry

July 29, 2010 - 5:44pm

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Virginia resident Meghan McMillen knows how frightening it is to be without a job during a recession.

As an administrative assistant at Volvo, McMillen thought her job was safe when the company began laying people off last year. But when a second round of lay-offs came in August, she found herself among those who were out of work.

"When I found out that I was suddenly out of job, I was terrified," says McMillen. "I knew a lot of former co-workers were struggling to find new employment, and I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to find anything either."

After more than two months of uncertainty, McMillen was hired by Community Housing Partners (CHP), a nonprofit housing development organization based in Christiansburg, Va. CHP received about $6.4 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Housing and Community Development to weatherize 830 homes, according to the state.

Chris Heslep, field operations director, says CHP's energy services department has hired and trained 35 new staff members and is hiring skilled trainers and educators for the New River Center for Energy Research and Training (NRCERT). The new facility, which opened in January, trains Virginia workers in green-collar jobs, in addition to training workers from other states.

The group will receive more funding once reporting is completed halfway through the program. The commonwealth's total budget from the U.S. Department of Energy for weatherization funding through March 2012 is about $94 million. That money will keep people like McMillen employed instead of struggling to get by.

"For the two and a half months that I was out of work, I was scared every day about trying to make ends meet. But then I was hired by CHP to be the energy services coordinator, and I couldn't be happier," McMillen says.

McMillen had learned that CHP was expanding its energy services department during her job search, and having worked for the company years ago, she decided to apply.

"Every day that I work here is a verification that this is where I belong.  I love the people I work with and feel so blessed to have a job with such a terrific organization.  I guess I have those stimulus dollars to thank for that," she says.

CHP performs weatherization in the New River Valley, northern Virginia and works as a subcontractor in the Fredericksburg area.

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