The City of Charlotte is actively preparing the local workforce for a clean energy economy. Putting years of strategic energy action planning to work, the City has convened a cross-sector partnership to provide paid renewable energy training and job placements to Charlotte residents displaced by COVID-19.
In collaboration with Urban League of Central Carolinas and Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, the City launched the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Workforce (RENEW) Training Program in September 2020. Supported in part by COVID-19 CARES Community Relief Funding, the RENEW Program precedes the pandemic as one of many outputs of Charlotte’s Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP). Adopted in 2018 in alignment with the Global Covenant of Mayors’ support of the Paris Climate Agreement, SEAP is a 32-year guide for how Charlotte can grow more sustainably and resiliently to deliver a low carbon future by 2050.
“Charlotte will lead, as a global city, by continuously improving, protecting, and preserving the environment, its community, and economy, while ensuring equity and resilience – for todays and future generations.” – SEAP Report excerpt
As part of SEAP’s focus on Workforce Development and Equity, the RENEW Program targets Charlotte residents displaced by COVID-19 to provide skilled trades training for HVAC and electrical occupations, with an emphasis on energy efficiency and building automation systems. Modeling SEAP’s clean energy principles of resiliency and sustainability, this comprehensive training program also works to place graduates in full-time, living-wage employment opportunities – a tremendous win for our community and our planet.
“I accepted a job with Horne Heating and Air and I started after the holidays. Thank you so much for everything you have done for us. I know this opportunity has completely changed my life. And I owe it all to this program and the Urban League.” shared Bethany Wessell, program participant.
RENEW’s thirteen-week program uses a blend of virtual and small-group lab instruction to teach basic skills for the industry and will develop a pipeline of workers supporting energy efficient and sustainable technologies. The RENEW curriculum educates participants on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) skills, basic electrical training, and general energy management accounting concepts, including energy use intensity, energy bills, renewable energy sources, and more.
Beyond the program’s technical curriculum, students participate in resume building and mock interview and mentor sessions, career days, and job placement services with one of many local employer partners: Trane Technologies, Horne Heating and Air, CBRE, and others. Now training the third cohort of students, RENEW will provide training for 80+ participants in the first year. Currently, over 20 program graduates have been hired into full-time positions within the industry.
“I’m so grateful for this program,” RENEW program participant Javarus Abraham said. “The HVAC Program changed my life. … I came into the program with little knowledge about HVAC, but I felt like I was equipped with enough knowledge to be a successful technician in the industry when I finished the program.”
The City of Charlotte’s RENEW Program recently received statewide recognition for this combination of green energy and equity work. The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster 2020 Cleantech Innovation Awards recognized the RENEW Program as the Diversity Program of the Year for its efforts to expose underrepresented groups to cleantech career opportunities, and corporate efforts to hire and support underrepresented employees through mentoring and networking initiatives.
The program continues to grow corporate engagement and with that comes unique opportunities for talent development and career pathways for program participants. Looking forward, the RENEW Program plans to continue the training for the HVAC and energy industry as well as expand into other high-demand occupations that utilize sustainable technologies such as EV manufacturing and maintenance and solar energy installation.