Announcement: Ryan LaPoma promoted to Senior Education Manager
Earth Advantage is excited to announce the recent promotion of Ryan LaPoma. Ryan formerly served as the Education Manager, and before that as Education Specialist. He has been with the organization for nine years, advancing inside our education department. Most recently he has overseen the monumental task of taking our long-running, and highly regarded Sustainable Homes Professional (SHP) six-month training and making it an online, on-demand offering available across the NW. I took some time to chat with Ryan about his time at EA and his thoughts on his role, and the future of green training.
Congratulations on the well-deserved promotion Ryan. Would you talk about what your new role encompasses?
Happy to! In recent years the Education Team has been focused on expanding our training programs and partnerships and I am fortunate to work with our incredible team and partner network to advance the building industry in very deliberate and important ways. These include working with utility partners across the NW on building code compliance and above-code training, bolstering our suite of on-demand online training offerings, supporting our workforce partners and their participants with impactful green construction training and accreditation programs, and growing our licensing program to allow national partners to deliver our ADU Specialist and Accredited Green Appraiser accreditation trainings across Washington, California & Hawaii.
Your department just released the SHP (Sustainable Homes Professional) class to an online, on-demand format. That class predates our time at EA and even our own Executive Director, David Heslam once taught the class. What were the challenges of bringing such a well-respected and intensive class to an online, on-demand platform?We’ve long wanted to make SHP available online so people from outside the Portland and Bend areas (where it’s been offered in-person historically) can participate in the program. Without a doubt, the largest challenge was the time commitment involved and we couldn’t have done it (and made it accessible at low cost) without primary funding support from the Edwards Mother Earth Foundation, as well as from BetterBuiltNW and the Energy Trust of Oregon. Apart from that, it really came down to the herculean effort of translating an 84 hour in-person training program into a 15-20 hour online program that retains the key elements and value of the original training. Now that we launched the training in mid-March and have over 60 participants going through it, I’m confident our Education Team achieved that goal.
We started at EA just a few days apart nine years ago. Can you share your thoughts on how you’ve seen the organization change in that time, and what excites you about the future?
The change has been incredible to witness and I think it speaks volumes about what can be achieved when staff feel supported by leadership and encouraged to make big changes in an organization. There’s a real tangible sense of everyone bringing so much expertise and passion to the organization and having the opportunity to develop something new that will help us advance the market and our mission towards creating more sustainable building. I’m not as much of a sports fan as I once was, but I liken it to being on a team when every player has the ability at any given time to have a breakthrough play/moment that can win the game.
The education department in many ways has changed a lot. What have been the big developments and shifts you’ve seen in our training focus?
We used to be called ‘Earth Advantage Institute’ and I think the term institute in some ways reflects our previous orientation towards becoming a more academic institution. We intentionally shifted our training program focus and I think now better reflect the unique position of Earth Advantage as a whole, which is more of a nimble, entrepreneurial nonprofit that can identify a market barrier or need and then quickly develop a solution that will support the industry in getting there faster than it would have otherwise.
What does the future hold for Earth Advantage training? Where would you like to see expansion, new curriculum, or a focus on new opportunities?
Delivering more green construction workforce and healthy homes training programs in support of underserved communities, both here in the NW and beyond. Continuing to expand our partner network and provide deep-dive training on specific building technologies and approaches, then leverage those shorter training classes to pull the late adopters into our robust classes. Expanding our ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) and Green Appraiser training in the burgeoning areas of the west coast, and beyond as ADUs gain more traction in other markets.
On the personal side, since you started at EA you’ve gotten married, had two lovely children, and relocated to Bend, Oregon. Has family life and change in geography impacted your thoughts on our mission or the overarching challenge of offsetting climate disruption?
Absolutely. I grew up in Sisters and always wanted to return to Central Oregon to raise my family. I was lucky to be able to do some field work for our Earth Advantage Home certification program when I initially moved to Bend. That offered an immensely valuable experience to see what choices builders are making in the real world and better understand the perspectives of rural Oregonians.
The success of our climate future relies on us collectively seeking to understand life experiences and perspectives outside of our own so we can find common ground and communicate empathically and effectively. I want my children and our training programs to reflect those values.