Home Energy Professionals program accredited training

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:08

An Overview of the Home Energy Professionals Project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has collaborated with technicians and trainers from across the home performance industry to fund the development of a national residential energy upgrade industry and a skilled and credentialed workforce. This Home Energy Professionals Project creates standard work specifications, advanced professional certifications for workers, and accredited training programs.

As part of the project, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has introduced a comprehensive Quality Work Plan that defines what is required when federal dollars are used to purchase weatherization services. This plan not only defines how home energy upgrade work should be done, but it also provides a prescription for communication, training, and the inspection of work throughout the WAP network.

Department of Energy Quality Work Plan

Standard Work Specifications (SWS)

Standard work specifications have been created to define the minimum requirements for any weatherization or home performance upgrade and describe the acceptable result. For single family, multifamily, and manufactured housing, upgrades must be effective, durable, and safe.

The SWS reflect a whole-house approach to installing energy-efficiency measures, which can include ventilation, insulation, and air sealing. By developing industry-approved work specifications and defining quality work, the SWS help establish residential energy upgrades as a national industry, and provide a common benchmark against which consumers, financers, and policymakers can measure performance of home energy-efficiency professionals.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) developed the standard work specifications in collaboration with industry subject matter experts, program administrators, health and safety experts, weatherization contractors, and product manufacturers. Federal partners at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also contributed to the soundness of the SWS.

Standard work specifications do not specifically address the process of energy assessments. A qualified home energy auditor must first conduct an energy assessment and develop a list of recommended measures. The SWS can then be used to define the required outcomes of those measures and to assess the quality of the installed work.

Professional Certifications

Currently, many different certifications are being offered and are required by various states and utility programs. The new Home Energy Professional Certifications will be uniformly recognized across the nation for both weatherization program staff and industry energy upgrade professionals, which is expected to enhance employee job security/opportunities, as well as worker mobility.

The Home Energy Professional Certifications are funded by DOE, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and administered by the Building Performance Institute (BPI). BPI is the first third-party organization licensed to deliver the certifications.

Home Energy Professional Certifications

To establish the framework, or blueprint, for the four Home Energy Professional certifications, NREL brought together more than 40 industry-nominated volunteers to define the general requirements of each (e.g., prerequisites, exam structure, practical application, and re-certification requirements).

The new Home Energy Professional Certifications are not meant to replace the traditional BPI certifications. In fact, these four credentials are a step up, meant for experienced practitioners who meet the prerequisite requirements.

Accredited Training Programs

Just as the Home Energy Professional Certifications ensure qualified workers in the field, accredited training programs ensure that individuals receive the proper training to become certified Home Energy Professionals and to do the quality work that is defined in the standard work specifications.

For this reason, the Home Energy Professionals project requires that its training providers be accredited by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Becoming an accredited training center requires time, rigor, and dedication. 

The backbone of the accreditation process is the Job Task Analysis (JTAs). JTAs catalogue the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a practitioner needs in order to perform a given job effectively and safely. They define what a home energy professional needs to know in order to do the job correctly.

By being able to verify and accredit training programs based on these JTAs, a higher level of consistency and quality is now available within the industry.

We're excited about this growth and validation from the Department of Energy. It's incredible to see how much attention and foresight is being placed upon this initiative. Timelines have been established for the execution of this project, with dates marked from now through 2015. Over the next few months, we'll start to see a home performance industry elevated to a place we've never seen before.

By Lesley Cowie



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