Alex Zhou was a bus driver for a Chinatown company offering no benefits before he landed a job as a weatherization technician in the Bay State's growing "green" economy.
There are already dozens of green-energy training programs in community colleges and vocational high schools across the state, but thanks to pilot programs offered by a coalition of local community groups, unions and energy-efficiency contractors, a more diverse group of people are finding a place in the "green-collar" industry.
"Green energy is one of the few growing industries in the state that can provide good jobs for urban working-class people," says Mark Liu, green justice coordinator for the Chinese Progressive Association, one of the participating organizations. The pilot program is funded by the state's utility companies and Massachusetts' SkillWorks work-force initiative.
"The number of people working in the residential green jobs sector has tripled since 2008," says Kevin Doyle, co-chairman of the Workforce Development Group at the New England Clean Energy Council. According to a 2009 council study, the 800 jobs in the industry were expected to grow to 2,600 by this year, and Doyle says the actual numbers are exceeding that prediction. "Green-energy companies in the state are hiring. There are hundreds of job openings."
Jobs for weatherization technicians and home energy auditors paying anywhere from $15 to $25 an hour are plentiful, but training is required to qualify for them.
Zhou, a 28-year-old Quincy resident, attended a weatherization "boot camp" in Fitchburg last year under the auspices of the local International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, where he learned to install insulation in walls and around pipes, replace windows and doors and perform other energy-efficiency improvements.
Now he's working for Methuen-based environmental contractor the Aulson Co. making $18.40 an hour as a weatherization technician. He's also a member of the local painters union.
"I was looking for a job that paid better and gave me benefits," said Zhou. "It's a good job, a little dirty sometimes, but I enjoy it. It's good helping people save energy."
The Chelsea Collaborative is also running a similar pilot program that has already trained 12 Chelsea residents to become weatherization technicians.
"Our goal is to get access to the green economy for people in our community," said Jovanna Garcia Soto, the lead organizer for the Collaborative's Chelsea Greenspace Committee. "And the jobs we are creating here will help struggling homeowners weatherize their homes."
The Chelsea Collaborative has just started work on weatherizing 50 Chelsea houses, arranging for no-interest micro-loans through a local bank to help homeowners pay for the 25 percent of weatherization costs not covered by the Mass Save initiative run by Nstar and National Grid that offers 75 percent (up to $2,000) in rebates for home-energy improvements.
As part of the program, Chelsea resident Carlos Calderon has just started working as a weatherization technician for Insul-Pro Insulation, an Abington-based company, after taking a 10-week training program at the New England Regional Council of Carpenters headquarters in Dorchester. Calderon learned about materials used for insulation and how to test to locate air leakage.
"I like every aspect of the job," said Calderon, 28, a father of two who had been unemployed. "It feels very fulfilling to help Chelsea people reduce their energy bills and help the environment at the same time."
Most Popular Stories
- Boehner Lashes Out Against Ted Cruz, Far Right
- Hawaii Official Who Release Obama Certificate Only Victim of Plane Crash
- TFA Recruiting DACA Recipients
- Holiday Shopping Off to a Slow Start This Season
- Ford Plans New Cars, Jobs in 2014
- Gold, Silver Slide on Prospects of Fed Exit
- 'Rape Insurance' Bill Passes in Michigan
- Ted Cruz Coloring Book Selling Briskly
- Kim Jong Un's Uncle Executed
- Grizzly Bears Could Be Taken Off Endangered List