New Legislation in the House

March 31, 2019
Spring 2019
A version of this article appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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There is cause for celebration this spring for all players in the home performance industry, as H.R. 1315 was introduced in the 116th Congress on February 27, 2019.

New legislation that would support training for home performance contractors was introduced in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing titled, “Clean Energy Infrastructure and the Workforce to Build It.” Chairman Bobby Rush invited Leticia Colon de Mejias to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee. Leticia is Policy Co-Chair of the Home Performance Coalition, now the Building Performance Association, and CEO of the contracting firm Energy Efficiencies Solutions in Connecticut.The proposed legislation 

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Workforce to Build It Witnesses to the hearing on H.R. 1315. Back row, center: Representatives Bobby Rush and Lisa Blunt Rochester. Far right: Leticia Colon de Mejias. (Kara Saul-Rinaldi)

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Chairman Bobby Rush and Leticia Colon de Mejias. (Kara Saul-Rinald)

  • Supports training for employment in clean energy fuel industries, including residential energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits;
  • Seeks to address a needed boost in employment of under-served workers—racial minorities, veterans, those transitioning from fossil industries, etc.—in the U.S. labor force, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); and
  • Establishes an office of Workforce Development with funds to support training for an energy efficient workforce.

“We have a real need to ramp up implementation of workforce programs that prepare career change for women, veterans, and other job seekers for the roles which need to be filled if we are to meet our nation’s demand for reliable and resilient energy production.” Ms. Colon de Mejias said.

She continued, “H.R. 1315 addresses the problem that there are plenty of jobs, yet not enough trained workers to fill them. The building performance industry is only effective when its workers are up-to-date on the fast-changing and sometimes highly technical environment of energy efficiency. Jobs in the energy efficiency and clean energy industries exist, and we need qualified workers to fill them.”

One dilemma for the industry, and what prevents energy efficiency from moving the economy forward more quickly, is that workers have trouble taking the needed time away from earning a paycheck to participate in training.

The Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act of 2019 addresses that need for training. “[It] is an energy workforce grant program, which would provide just such assistance to businesses that are seeking to educate and train new hires and existing employees in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries,” says Colon de Mejias. Her argument for the legislation is also appealing because it gives an extra boost to trainers and students who are minorities, women, veterans, and from underserved populations. She says, “We should give special consideration to increasing outreach to employers and job trainers preparing displaced and unemployed energy workers for emerging energy-related jobs and make resources available to institutions serving displaced and unemployed energy workers with the objective of increasing the number of individuals trained for jobs in energy-related industries.” This also answers the question, if you take away oil and gas industry jobs, where are the people who had those jobs going to work?

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Read E4TheFuture's report.

Kara Saul-Rinaldi, Vice-President of Government Affairs and Policy for HPC, reflected on the need for the legislation, “More than 2.25 million Americans work in the energy efficiency industry, according to the 2018 Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report issued by E4TheFuture—with 57% in construction and repair work.  But companies are struggling to find trained, qualified workers.  Small businesses can be hesitant to invest in training workers who may change jobs and the cost of building science training has increased as clean technology grows more sophisticated.  Jobs in energy-efficient lighting, HVAC, insulation and air sealing, and energy management technology are available, but trained professionals are in short supply.” 

As Leticia Colon de Mejias said, “We need a comprehensive, nationwide program to improve education and training for workers in the efficiency and clean energy industries, including manufacturing, engineering, construction, and building retrofitting jobs. This is exactly what the Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act of 2019 would create.”

Leslie Jackson is office manager and associate editor of Home Energy Magazine.

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