Workforce Development for Energy Code Enforcement
Local governments across the United States are increasingly enacting policies and offering programs to drive energy savings, but the success of these activities is inextricably linked to a strong, capable energy efficiency workforce. To ensure that trained workers are available to capitalize on efficiency investments, local governments can set workforce development goals, coordinate training programs, and provide equal access to opportunities to workers and businesses. They can also institute equity-focused energy efficiency workforce development programs and targets to extend these benefits to underserved community members, according to the research report, "Through the Local Government Lens: Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce."
View the topics below, and visit the model policy and resource page for more information.
Workforce development programs provide an avenue to ensure the existence of a future and present skilled workforce. A key component of achieving energy efficient and low carbon buildings is having a robust building code workforce. Regardless of the version of the code, or incentive program adopted, energy savings and carbon reductions will not be realized without professional enforcement. As the building systems and codes advance to include new and innovative technologies, and achievement of low carbon goals are further integrated into the model codes, the professionals responsible for adoption, implementation and compliance must have the knowledge and skillset required to advance with them. Establishing a diverse and comprehensive workforce will allow jurisdictions to better prepare for the implementation of modern and innovative technologies and advanced codes.
Prior to establishing a workforce development plan, it is important to analyze the current landscape of the existing workforce, what educational programs are available, and whether they provide education, certification or the degree necessary to begin a career. Determine how the current code professionals integrate training and education into their job. With over 25 areas of discipline to choose from in the building code sector, it is important to determine the current needs of the jurisdiction and develop a specific plan for outreach and education around those needs. It is also helpful to collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions to identify areas of overlap and peer to peer education opportunities. It is important to consider the current economic situation of the AHJ, the availability of the current staff to participate in educational opportunities and the gaps in education.
A career in the code professional industry requires, at a minimum, a high-school diploma or equivalent. Depending on the area of discipline, additional requirements can vary across states and jurisdictions. Individuals interested in the code profession should consult the ICC website for guidance and resources on careers in code enforcement as well as education, certification options and resources for other areas of discipline.
While keeping an eye on the development of a new workforce is necessary, the current workforce must also be provided with the tools and educational opportunities needed to keep current with modern technologies and updated codes.
The ICC’s Major Jurisdictions Committee (MJC) coordinates the compilation of lessons learned from around the country through publication of the Best Practices guide. Code professionals do not consistently have the luxury of stepping away from the daily requirements of their jobs to participate in educational workshops or seminars, creating a gap in education as well as a lack of awareness of modern and innovative technologies, and updated codes. Discovering the balance between providing quality service to the communities and arming the code professionals with the knowledge needed is a delicate act.
In 2014 the ICC and the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) partnered on a study to understand what the future of the code profession looked like. During this study it was discovered that about 85 percent of the current code professional workforce was over the age of 45 and many were on the verge of retirement. With most of the profession getting closer to retirement, it is necessary that the younger generation be educated about the industry and the many possibilities for a rewarding career.
Since it is expected that within a finite amount of time the current building professionals will be retiring, taking their institutional knowledge with them; it is glaringly obvious that investing in the future workforce now is critical to making the transition seamless. Integrating code specific curriculum into an existing STEM or STEAM program within a K-12 school district would provide exposure at any earlier age allowing for the younger generation to become familiar with the profession and start thinking about it as a career option. Another path could be to develop and implement a code curriculum in local community colleges providing an avenue to increase educational opportunities and potentially aiding in career placement.
Establishing a comprehensive suite of activities designed to educate and excite K-12 students, can be a way for jurisdictions to begin exposure of the profession to the younger generation. Scholarships, high school signing days, career day booths, presentations from local code professionals, and recognition from community leadership are examples of such activities. These activities could complement each other or stand alone as individual events.
Training and education can be impactful, and several models are available including focused issue-based training, site education, circuit riders and more traditional broad-based code training. The most effective training provides audience-specific delivery targeted to its needs; technical assistance to key stakeholders; and circuit rider programs to ensure that the building, design and enforcement industry has the required resources to design, build and enforce energy codes.
Innovation and Best Practices
Jurisdictions can learn from peers through workshops, case studies and best practices in order to advance the knowledge and skillset of the existing workforce. There are multiple training opportunities and certification programs that can be found within the resources section of the ICC website. Below are two innovative strategies for expanding the energy code workforce.
The Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), in partnership with the Illinois EPA Office of Energy, has developed an Energy Code Training Program which offers workshops, webinars, online trainings, resources and technical support to the industry. Currently, SEDAC in partnership with the State of Hawaii and the State of Nevada are undergoing a pilot program that incorporates energy code training at the community college level. The program, if successful, will be a template for other states and jurisdictions to expand the code profession workforce. This is one example of a way to get new professionals interested and knowledgeable on energy codes, thus developing the future workforce.
To ensure a robust pool of qualified candidates are ready to step into the shoes of the current building professionals, the Building Officials Association of Texas (BOAT) has facilitated Career Development Days as part of their annual conference since 2017. "These full-day workshops invite young professionals preparing to enter the workforce to participate in educational activities and network with industry leaders in an effort to demonstrate the tremendous opportunities associated with a career in the code enforcement industry."
Visit the International Code Council energy resources page for more information.