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Thursday, January 15, 2009

State wants pilot porgram in Milwaukee to train weatherization workers

From an article by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

The state funnels $65 million in public money every year into making homes more energy efficient, but contractors warn they are running low on workers to do the job.

Compared to more traditional construction trades, replacing windows, hauling refrigerators and crawling through attics and basements to install insulation isn’t sexy, said Sheree Dallas Branch, administrator of the Division of Energy Services in the Wisconsin Department of Administration. But for years, the state found workers to weatherize thousands of houses, and the push for greater energy efficiency will only expand the need, she said.

The state hires 21 companies to oversee the weatherization program in different areas of Wisconsin, and for the past year those companies have said they are running short on workers, she said.

“One of the themes that was consistent was an aging work force,” Dallas Branch said. “Weatherization is a very technical field, but a lot of people don’t know about it.”

The point of the program is to conserve energy by fixing up old houses. Using money collected from the U.S. Department of Energy and public electric utilities in Wisconsin, the state weatherized 9,900 homes in 2008, Dallas Branch said. Wisconsin budgeted $65 million for the job in 2009 and plans to fix up 7,900 houses. There are fewer this year because the state is focusing on the worst houses that need the most work, she said.

To meet the need for more workers, the state is looking for a company to recruit up to 25 Milwaukee residents a year, help them get basic job skills and get them on-the-job training on state weatherization projects. Proposals are due Jan. 21.

Dallas Branch said the two-year contract in Milwaukee will serve as a pilot program the Division of Energy Services wants to replicate throughout the state.
Read the procurement announcement here.

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