These days, energy efficiency and renewable energy are powering DC. While providing solar and wind energy to homes and offices, they are also creating jobs for DC residents. The DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) is providing hands-on training to meet the ever-growing demand for workers in this field.
On Dec. 12, six District residents graduated from DCSEU’s Workforce Development Program. To mark the occasion, the Summer/Fall 2018 cohort of “externs” participated in a commencement ceremony that highlighted both the importance of green energy jobs in the District and the growing demand for skilled workers in this field. The ceremony, which took place at DCSEU’s office in Navy Yard, featured remarks from Dr. Taresa Lawrence, Deputy Director of Energy for the District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) as well as DCSEU Managing Director Ted Trabue.
The DCSEU Workforce Development program gives people provides career coaching, training and access to certifications in green energy. The externships are hands on. Participants are called externs because they work in the field at mentor sites, for example at Howard University, DC Water and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), taking on tasks ranging from installing solar panels to auditing HVAC equipment on large treatment facilities. Externs also receive career coaching and access to certifications to help them obtain jobs related to renewable energy in DC as well as weekly trainings on interviewing and résumé writing.
The Workforce Development Program is overseen by the DCSEU’s Sheryl Dove. “It’s an honor for our team to run this program, to help change lives and to watch these phenomenal individuals step into a bright future. Every cohort starts with a group of diverse individuals who are strangers, but by the end they typically act like a team that has been working together for years,” said Dove.
DCSEU has sponsored nine cohorts to date, and historically. More than 85 percent of externs have gone on to full-time positions after completing the program.
Josh Brown, a Ward 8 resident, graduated from the DCSEU Workforce Development Program in January 2018. He found out about the Program while working as a driver for a rideshare company when one of his passengers, a DCSEU employee, told him about the program. Josh forwarded his résumé to her that same day.
“When you’re looking to change your career path, sometimes that’s so hard to do, especially in the adult phase of your life. DCSEU’s program was a remarkable experience,” said Brown.
As a part of his training, Josh externed for Thompson Facilities at Howard University. He took a building operator course through the Pennsylvania College of Technology at the University of the District of Columbia. He currently works as a HVAC technician at a DC hospital.
While the DCSEU has helped District residents obtain green energy jobs since its inception in 2011, the utility’s management team created the formal Workforce Development Program in 2014. The ideas was to help DC residents discover the green energy and sustainability fields, to assist the DCSEU’s large customers and contractors with energy efficiency projects and to support the growth of smaller DC certified business enterprise (CBE) contractors.
“Since Mayor Bowser took office, we’ve seen a growing need for skilled labor in the clean and renewable energy sector,” said Tommy Wells, director of DOEE, “and DC’s recently passed Clean Energy DC Omnibus legislation will continue to build demand for this emerging green workforce. The DCSEU’s innovative program provides externs with hands-on training in energy efficiency and sustainability projects, enabling them to transition into meaningful jobs that have a real and positive impact on the District’s citywide clean energy and sustainability goals.”
Ted Trabue of DCSEU notes, “Many of the program participants see a whole new trajectory for themselves and their families via the pursuit of a green career. In Feb. 2019, we’ll be piloting a building operator cohort – a training program focusing on running smart buildings – those using automated processes to automatically control heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and security systems. We’re excited to offer this program because the talent pool for building operator positions is decreasing. People currently in those jobs are retiring and buildings are evolving to include smart technology that requires specialized training.”
Interested in participating in the DCSEU Workforce Development Program? District residents can begin the application process by emailing their résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org. As Trabue notes, “Green energy is creating jobs in DC.”
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also a Board Member and Conservation Chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.