Lessons on Training the Green Building Workforce of Tomorrow...From Home

February 24, 2021 | By: James Metoyer

workforce training photo
Part of our mission at
Earth Advantage is to teach professionals about the green building industry along with the best techniques and practices that will accelerate the adoption of sustainable homes. We recognize that industry wide, there is a need for a diverse and talented workforce that is well trained. Across the country, signs are pointing to a silver tsunami of retirees coming and a young skilled workforce will be needed to step up and take the reins. 

Earth Advantage welcomes the opportunity to educate this next generation of construction professionals on building to above code standards and assessing the efficiency of existing homes. Our intent is to especially focus on supporting  students participating in workforce programs that serve Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), low income and previously incarcerated populations.

At the start of 2020, the Earth Advantage team was scheduled to deliver 16 full days of in-person workforce development trainings in collaboration with groups like  the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program (PATP) Consortium, which includes Constructing Hope, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Portland Youth Builders, and Oregon Tradeswomen, as well as Heart of Oregon Corps and The Blueprint Foundation. The pandemic forced each of our partner organizations to make significant adjustments to how they approached their work in order to meet the unique needs of underserved youth and students expecting a hands-on pre-apprenticeship experience. 

While one of the programs decided to not take on any new students and instead focus on helping graduates and existing students already enrolled in their program throughout the year. The other programs continued with plans to access Earth Advantage’s Green Construction Workforce training,  which is usually a 14 hour class delivered across 2 days and that provides a Green Building Trainee credential. The class is a mixture of lecture, classroom group exercises, in-field hands-on activities, and an in-field site visit to an under-construction green certified new home.  

This collaboration based in trust, agility, and great communication  resulted in successfully delivering 13 full days of trainings with our key training partners. Some of the secrets to this success (which we will take with us in training in a post-pandemic world) included
  • We purchased a green screen, a gimbal (used to steady a camera when walking), professional microphone, and lighting in order to make sure our training looked professional for the students. 
  • Teachers made sure students had the latest version of Zoom installed on their devices whether they were provided by the students family or the workforce partner
  • The challenges with completing a virtual tour instead of an in-person on-site tour with students was significant.  We had to verify there was wifi access on the jobsite, download apps for the gimbal for it to work properly, test the gimbal to get the functionality down, all while making sure it was a clean break going from presentation mode to virtual tour mode in Zoom.
  • We adjusted the virtual format to be more engaging to a younger audience by adding more discussions, building science experiments, polling questions, and short videos to spark conversation and participation
We were still able to deliver two in-person, indoor trainings at the request of two of our partners, asboth groups had large classrooms to complete classroom-style presentations and activities while keeping everyone socially distanced and safe. However even the in-person program cohorts presented their own unique challenges, from staying warm in well-ventilated winter conditions to dealing with the wildfires and ensuring students were wearing masks for not only COVID precautions but also to combat the poor Air Quality Index. 

2020 was obviously a year where everyone had to make continuous adjustments to their daily routines, both in their personal lives and at work. Earth Advantage’s experience working with our training program partners through this challenging year taught us some invaluable lessons. It reinforced the critical importance of safety first when completing an in person training with masks and sanitization. 

It also reinforced our mission of meeting an organization and the audience they serve exactly where they are at and being flexible. This includes everything from adapting our training based on the technology the students will be using, the setting they will be virtually logging in from, and offering a good mix of lecture, breaks, and virtual activities.  
Lastly I’ll leave you with some of the testimonials from a couple of our students after taking our trainingGroup of green trainees

“Before this course I had minimal knowledge about Building Green and Home Energy Scores. But I feel they are the future for the country and so I almost feel like I am in on the ground floor.”

“I want to have a career in sustainable green building. This training I feel was valuable for me to know how to begin this process.”