This article was originally published in the November/December 1996 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1996
Youth Energy Conserves
Members of the Youth Energy Corps carry a hopper for their blow-in insulation work.
How do you join poorly educated, unemployed youths with low-income residents, weatherization agencies, and contractors in a partnership that benefits all of them? The Bronx-based Youth Energy Corps (YEC) is doing just that, and setting an example for other communities to follow.
The Corporation for Youth Energy Corps was established in 1980 as a work-study program in which at-risk and disadvantaged youths in the South Bronx, New York, could gain on-the-job training. YEC initially specialized in window repair and installation, but in 1992 began a partnership with Con Edison and New York's Weatherization Assistance Program to weatherize one- to four-family residences in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in the Bronx. Today, YEC crews use blower doors and laptop computers to perform home energy audits, seal air leaks, add blown-in high-density insulation to sidewalls and crawlspaces, test boilers, and repair roofs. True to their roots, they still repair windows as well.
YEC's 12-month training and education program accommodates up to 40 participants a year, enabling them to earn their GED and helping them to find jobs at the end of the program. According to YEC president Steven Reese, between 62% and 66% of youths entering the program graduate and get placed in jobs-a considerable achievement, given that some participants have only a fifth-grade education when they begin. Reese says, It's exciting because we're helping to turn around young lives. It's an ongoing challenge, since we have limited time to train people, and we have to turn out quality work-we're held to the same work and energy performance standards as any other contractor.
Many participants who complete the program find work with weatherization agencies or contractors. Some find other construction work, and some go to work for other employers. YEC also provides placement assistance for participants beyond their first job. Recently, YEC has begun to farm out some of its advanced corps members for part-time work with weatherization agencies before they finish the program. The agency gains free temporary labor, and the YEC member begins receiving training from a potential future employer.
YEC works on 300 to 400 residential units a year in the Con Edison service area. Many units are occupied by low-income senior citizens, who receive the services free of charge and save as much as 50% in annual fuel bills.
YEC has done demonstration projects in other communities too. In 1995, Reese did a three-week demonstration project in East Los Angeles. He led a group of California Conservation Corps (CCC) employees who insulated and air sealed 37 housing units. Like the New York program, this was a cooperative effort; it involved the nonprofit Maravilla Foundation, Southern California Gas Company, and the CCC program in Pomona. The Pomona CCC continues to do weatherization projects in Southern California. A smaller demonstration project in Albany, New York, weatherized a three-family housing complex in conjunction with the Albany Service Corporation.
YEC is supported by federal, state, and private sources. But, in this era of shrinking funding, the corps may need to adapt.
We're looking to survive regardless of what happens with government funding sources in the future, Reese said. And he added, We think we could almost support our annual budget of $1.5 million just by repairing broken windows. YEC can be contacted at 45-67 W. Tremont Ave., Bronx, NY 10453. Tel:(718)294-2000; Fax:(718)294-2281.
Ted Rieger is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California, who specializes in energy issues.
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