Creating economic development through job training
How might we design a system to address two major problems facing our country—recidivism and climate change?
Many organizations work on each of these challenges, yet fewer are at the intersection. By creating a network of organizations that provide skills, support, and employment assistance, we can empower people who were formerly incarcerated to build a new green career.
While working at the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), I led workforce development to help people with barriers to employment get jobs in energy efficiency construction. Many of our trainees had criminal histories and struggled to find work after leaving prison. I helped build a network of social services organizations and energy efficiency employers to create a pipeline for jobs.
My role: Workforce Development Systems Designer
Team: Trainers at AEA, 12 social services partner orgs in NYC, and about 30 employers
Deliverables: Program design and implementation, partnership & employer network development
Users: Job seekers with barriers to employment, and energy companies looking to hire
Outcome: While I worked on the program, over 100 trainees found jobs.
Concept development and insights
My organization, AEA, had training in construction and retrofitting for people working in buildings. Meanwhile, social services orgs supported people who were formerly incarcerated, unemployed, and looking for work.
Through ethnographic and market research I gleaned insights to guide our solution. We needed new curriculum, new equipment, and new approaches to teaching for people who were new to energy efficiency in buildings.
Full ecosystem solution
“Not many people get a second chance in life, and I’m very proud to say that I’ve been given that chance. I look forward to advancing in this company and learning every aspect of weatherization and the green industry.”
Working with the Executive Director of AEA, I built an ecosystem of organizations to provide a career pathway to get a job. I formed partnerships with social services organizations that offer job readiness training and adult education. Together we applied to grants from federal, state, local, and private programs. I also built a network of energy efficiency employers looking to hire more staff, and created multiple touch-points for job seekers and employers to meet.
The user journey ran from training at a social services organization, to training at my organization in energy efficiency, to hiring assistance.
job-specific hands on training
We were training people for jobs in building science—understanding air flow, leaks, and insulation—to update people's homes to increase comfort and save energy and money. Before sending our trainees into someone's home, they needed a lot of practice.
We expanded our workshop to include replicas of home attics, walls, windows, door frames, pipes, and boilers for insulation. Beginners who weren't familiar with all of the building components could explore, touch, and add insulation in a safe environment.
trainees find jobs
Following the training program, we held job fairs for trainees to meet with potential employers. Our partners provided coaching in resumes, elevator pitches, and interviews. I built a network of construction companies and Weatherization agencies looking to hire new field technicians. I made sure that the employers were familiar with all of the training and skills-building our graduates had accomplished.
“I am proud to say I am employed and pursuing a career instead of just a job. I can now say I look forward to waking up and going to work every day. I can feel my contribution every time I encounter a tenant, or every time I make a difference in an individual’s life.”
While I worked on this program, over 100 job seekers found employment.
The training and employment program provides job seekers not only with a job, but with a career path. The energy sector will continue to grow, and there are many more levels of advancement that field technicians have on a long career path.
Additionally, these jobs provide a sense of purpose and the chance to be a part of a global movement to fight climate change and to reduce pollution that causes asthma in children in their communities. For many of the participants in the program, this is one of the first opportunities they've had to redefine their identity in their community to be a helper. Making money and holding a job is of course important, but that shift of becoming someone with purpose to contribute positively has enormous impact and ripple effects across society.