Graduates of the Green Construction Training program are entering the workforce

Jul 1, 2024
Career Training cohort receiving instruction

Earlier this year, Center for Energy and Environment’s (CEE) Career Training program successfully conducted the first Green Construction Training cohort, funded through Ramsey County’s Learn and Earn Program. This cohort saw 14 graduates come through the program, with five graduates continuing to a paid four-month internship with local contractors. During the internship, trainees receive on-the-job training in the energy efficiency industry and will either enter the workforce or pursue further education when the internship ends.

"I plan to pursue HVAC as an end goal career for me. Something in that field, whether it would be a technician or a contractor."

– Letour Vue, HVAC intern at Lighthowes Mechanical

When CEE was establishing its Career Training program, a large emphasis was placed on the importance of providing hands-on, real-world experience. The training program is designed to first provide participants with a concrete understanding of the basic principles of building science through a 45-hour classroom training portion that includes an introduction to residential HVAC and insulation as career paths. Following the initial 45-hour training, several participants are selected for a more intensive, hands-on 40-hour training. During the hands-on training, participants earn 3–4 NREL Installer badges on insulation training props, visit CAPRW’s HVAC lab, build and dense pack a 4x8 foot wall section, and gain hands-on practice with soldering in Saint Paul College’s sheet metal lab. Once a base knowledge is established, CEE helps interested participants secure internships so they can apply their knowledge while working on real homes and buildings.

When the current internship trainees were asked why they were interested in applying for this training program, most of them said they were looking for an opportunity to start a new career path. “I was in limbo with working low paying minimum wage jobs and wanted to work in a more complex and trained field,” said Andrew Johnson, HVAC intern at The Energy Conservancy. Offering paid training and internships is a huge factor for participants successfully entering the energy efficiency field.

Internship placement was determined by the career path the individual was interested in pursuing and the availability of our participating contractors at their companies. The Green Construction training program offers two career path options, residential HVAC and Insulation. During classroom training, instructors teach the basics of both areas and participants can explore which path feels like the right fit for them. Then when they move onto the internship, they can select their preferred placement. Of the five participants currently complete their internship, one is pursuing a career in insulation and four in HVAC.

So far, the five trainees completing an internship have been very successful at their jobsites. “My experience with the internships has been amazing. I love how they accept me as a team member,” said Kendric Briggs, current insulation intern at Franek Construction. The internships will last around four months and require 35–40 hours of work each week. This full-time schedule allows trainees to gain more experience with different jobs and apply their training in various situations. When asked about what a typical day at the jobsite looks like, Kongpheng Vang, current HVAC intern at Standard Heating & Cooling, said, “We will do tune ups on furnace and A/C units and make sure they are functioning properly and safely and help clean them up. We will have about 4–6 calls per day and 1.5 hours per call to finish a tune up. Every day you see something new and learn something new.”

Throughout the internship, trainees still meet with CEE’s Building Science Trainers and workforce development staff once every two weeks. This time is an opportunity for the instructors to check in with everyone about their internship and offer support. Even after the internship is completed, CEE’s community-based partners, like CAPI and Ujamaa Place, will continue to offer career support and navigation services.

Looking to the future, these trainees all plan to pursue a career in this field. Three trainees have completed their internship and two more will complete their internship later this summer. So far, three trainees have received full-time job offers following their internships. The next Green Construction Training program will launch in September, and CEE is looking forward to supporting another cohort of hardworking individuals as they enter the energy efficiency workforce.

Click here for more information about CEE's Career Training opportunities