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Jul 19, 2023

BPA Sponsors Apprenticeship Pathways in Energy Efficiency 

Apprenticeships have a long history in the building trades, but there aren't any in home performance and energy efficiency...that is, until now.

By: Robin Yochum

Apprenticeships have a long history in the building trades. Carpenters, cement masons, and HVAC technicians all have well-known apprenticeship programs–so why not also energy efficiency and home performance contractors?

A Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, receive progressive wage increases, classroom instruction, and a nationally-recognized credential. Registered Apprenticeships (RAs) are industry-vetted and approved and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or a State Apprenticeship Agency.

Energy efficiency careers obtained through a RAP can fill a void in a growing economic sector that needs a skilled and passionate workforce to keep up with the industry’s ever-increasing demand. Even though energy efficiency careers have been around for over 30 years, there has yet to be a clear path to follow to become an Energy Specialist, like so many other trades. This is where the Building Performance Association (BPA) comes in. 

BPA is the sponsor of a new, registered Energy Specialist apprenticeship. As the sponsor, BPA is responsible for the program’s operations and administration, ensuring compliance with regulations, enforcing the program’s policies, maintaining records, and reporting.

Those who want to become an Energy Specialist can take any number of paths to get there, as long as they complete a total of 144 classroom hours and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. 

As an example, and in partnership with the Building Performance Institute (BPI), BPA created an easy-to-understand apprenticeship path that takes someone from pre-apprenticeship where you earn your Building Science Principles (BSP) Certificate of Knowledge all the way through to a Master Energy Specialist as an Energy Auditor (EA) or a Quality Control Inspector (QCI).

While there are various inroads to this RA, this graphic shows one possible path. Let’s take a closer look. If you took this path, you could begin with a 12-week pre-apprenticeship program where you will learn Building Science Principles (BSP) either online or in-person with a local trainer, encompassing 8-10 total hours of instruction. In addition, you will complete 30 hours per week of on-the-job training (OJT) with your employer. Once you have completed the 12-week program, you can take the exam. During the course of your training, you will learn widely-used industry terminology related to building science as well as how various components of the home interact to achieve optimum performance. 

The next step, if you chose to go further, is to become a Building Analyst Technician (BA-T). The BA-T is for people that have received the BSP Certificate of Knowledge and are ready to put their new education to work in the field. You will go through a combination of OJT and attend training in person or online and become familiar with whole-home assessments, standards and building systems that interact with each other.

This apprenticeship path continues by providing apprentices an opportunity to further their career and become a journeyperson as a Building Analyst Professional (BA-P) and eventually a master Energy Specialist either as an Energy Auditor (EA) then Quality Control Inspector (QCI). (A journeyperson applies to a person who has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform a specific trade without supervision.) This pathway will place you in a fast-paced, sustainable career.

Completing BPA’s RAP will earn you several nationally recognized credentials in succession over time that demonstrates your competency and professionalism. You will also be able to network with other professionals in the field and find employment opportunities that align with what you like to do. 

While many employers choose to create in-house programs, others may also participate in RAPs sponsored by educational institutions, community-based organizations, or industry associations. As the industry association representing a network of more than 20,000, BPA hopes this apprenticeship path will help states build their own models based on these guidelines. This Energy Specialist apprenticeship is something this industry has needed for a long time and BPA knows how valuable it will be in filling our workforce with skilled, properly trained individuals. 

Meet the Author

Robin Yochum

Robin Yochum is a State Outreach Coordinator at the Building Performance Association. She brings her passion for helping people through education on reducing the impacts of climate change in the built environment. Her expertise is in advancing energy efficiency and state and local climate policies to achieve carbon emission reductions. She has dedicated the most recent chapter of her career to clean energy policies, advancing sustainable practices through federal funding opportunities and state led initiatives while educating stakeholders on the importance of building energy codes, performance contracting, energy audits and upgrades and overall sustainable practices.

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