As the director of the Montana Weatherization Training Center, Mike Vogel knows that the field of weatherization is changing. That's why after 20 years of training workers, the center now offers a program that is not limited to its location in Bozeman, or even to the state of Montana itself.
After receiving a $354,000 partnership grant from the National Community Action Foundation and ExxonMobil in early June, the training center is producing WxTV (Weatherization Television Network), a weekly weatherization show available on the Internet. The training center is affiliated with Montana State University Extension.
With episodes featuring experts from different areas of the country, the show teaches about various weatherization projects and provides a refresher for those who are already in the profession. Viewers also have the opportunity to blog comments and questions regarding the content.
"Broadcasting is extremely expensive. This way we can produce a high quality product and people can view [the episodes] when they want," says Vogel.
According to Vogel, WxTV is part of an overall effort to enhance national weatherization training and reach a new generation of weatherization workers. Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) began offering funding through state Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP) last year, Vogel says the profession has seen an influx of new workers.
"I would say it's a real mixed bag between a whole new generation of workers coming in that are not contractors, not weatherization people – they're young folks that want a job," Vogel says. "We're also dealing with a very high level of folks out of the workplace, like architects and engineers, who are very good contractors but are out of work."
With the variety of people in need of introductory and professional weatherization training, Vogel says it can be a challenge to meet different learning styles. While the center continues to offer traditional classes and fieldwork, WxTV is one effort to accommodate the growing demand for training and satisfy a younger, more tech-savvy audience.
"We're trying to enhance the green workforce with younger folks," says Vogel. "It's just another spoke in the wheel as far as an outreach for training. And we're finding that more and more folks are very interested in enhancing their own training programs, especially with funding and a lot of new centers coming on board."
Vogel says the center is tracking viewership to continue making improvements and strives to reach the 900 local service providers across the country. They currently have a constant viewership of about 2,000, Vogel says.
"We are hitting every state and it's a pretty nice balance based on the number of agencies that are there," Vogel says. "We're trying to work with as many programs that we can so that footage comes from all over the country."
While the show is currently focused on contractors and crew training, Vogel says they are looking for funding to create episodes geared toward homeowners. There have been 12 episodes created so far, and the goal is to produce 36 with the grant funding.
The center invites state and agency weatherization programs to contact them for program feature ideas or to provide content for an episode.