The climate crisis is an ever-looming global challenge that has captured the attention of scientists, policymakers, and activists for decades, all posing the same question: What can we do? Green Built Alliance is making strides to address this issue by building green, saving energy, and supporting clean energy through programs like Green Built Homes, Energy Savers Network, and Blue Horizons Project.
Individual activists are contributing by adopting solar energy and, when feasible, investing in electric vehicles. However, there is another, often overlooked, yet equally critical strategy: preparing our youth to confront climate change head-on. Amid the urgency of addressing climate change, the role of education and inspiration for youth is often overshadowed by more immediate measures. Equipping young minds with the tools, knowledge, and motivation to tackle climate change is a solution with the potential for lasting impact.
To address the multifaceted climate issue, a holistic and forward-looking approach is necessary—one that involves not only the present generation but also those who will inherit the planet in the coming decades. Recognizing the importance of preparing the next generation for this challenge, Energy Savers Network has expanded its impact with a workforce development program. In the summer of 2023, we launched our first-ever Energy Efficiency Pre-Apprenticeship. This program aims to teach young people how to make homes more energy-efficient, inspire action, and connect them with others in the community who are working to fight climate change.
The idea struck us the previous summer when local high school students volunteered on our job sites. We were inspired by their enthusiasm to make a positive impact on their community and the environment. This moment sparked the concept of involving youth in our mission. Upon sharing our vision with our team, we were met with overwhelming support. Thanks in part to the funding we received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), we had the necessary resources to kickstart this program. After an intensive six months of planning and collaboration with community partners, we launched our online application, and the response from interested applicants started pouring in.
Following interviews and careful deliberation, we selected a group of five individuals to comprise our inaugural cohort of pre-apprentices. Over eight weeks, we worked in seventeen clients’ homes, where our pre-apprentices received comprehensive training in implementing energy-efficient retrofits. For some, this experience marked their first exposure to power tools. It was a gratifying journey as we observed the skill and confidence of our apprentices steadily ascend with each passing day, as they became increasingly proficient in the use of these tools and other essential materials. Furthermore, it became apparent that the influence we were exerting on our clients’ lives deeply resonated with our apprentices as they bore witness to some of the challenging situations and living conditions that our clients sometimes face. This exposure left our apprentices with a noticeably broadened perspective and a deeper understanding of inequality in our community.
We reserved each Friday for captivating field trips to local companies and organizations, many within the sustainable sector, including Conservation Pros, Sugar Hollow Solar, GreenWorks, RiverLink, and Deltec Homes. These excursions provided our apprentices with invaluable exposure to diverse career paths, igniting their curiosity and prompting them to consider professions they had never before contemplated. During this transformative phase, we observed our apprentices undergoing significant growth, emerging as self-assured and competent leaders. They have demonstrated proficiency not only in technical responsibilities such as conducting home energy audits but also in excelling in areas like teamwork, effective communication, and active participation within the community. The transformative effects of this experience are illustrated through the words of Ruby Blue, one of our dedicated apprentices, in her summary of her journey with us.
“I plan to seek out ways I can use my future engineering degree to either obtain a job with a non-profit or volunteer my time and skills with a non-profit—even though I never considered these goals before this summer. Furthermore, before this pre-apprenticeship I imagined pursuing a career designing sustainable public infrastructure; however, I now see the need for sustainable housing and private infrastructure as well—especially for low and middle-income families. This pre-apprenticeship makes me curious as to how I can help solve energy efficiency problems on a larger scale; I’m inspired to examine these issues throughout my engineering education”
Energy Savers Network’s success in implementing this initiative was made possible through a combination of funds, including those from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), generous donations, and the invaluable support of like-minded individuals and organizations. This achievement underscores the importance of a collaborative approach in addressing climate change and emphasizes the need for more funding for workforce development programs that focus on youth and climate-related initiatives. Climate change is a collective problem, and empowering our youth ensures that the next generation is equipped to shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding our planet.