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High-Performance Building Operator
Piloted in California earlier this year, the High-Performance Building Operator Program (HPBOP) will eventually be available for adoption at community colleges nationwide. More than 250 stakeholder organizations across the United States were surveyed to gain acceptance of this ground-breaking program.
Statewide Director and Sector Navigator
Energy, Construction, & Utilities
California Community College System
automated buildings need human intervention to stay intelligent?
Not really. But they do need humans to make sure they continue to
serve tenants well, produce a strong return on investment, and assure a
low carbon footprint.
Research shows that half of California’s commercial HVAC systems are not installed or maintained to their specified performance level. There’s a similar problem with lighting controls. Clearly, these are human problems not easily solved by automation. As a result, workforce quality presents a significant barrier to meeting California’s mandate of Zero Net Energy in 50% of the state’s 10 billion square feet of commercial space by 2030.
The low output from the state’s talent pipeline is also a problem. For example, 3,200 new Facility Managers are required annually in four Southern California counties. Less than 100 receive an accredited credential in Facility Management in those counties each year.
California Community Colleges began investing heavily in energy
efficiency training for the skilled trades in 2014, funding programs at
66 of the state’s 114 colleges. More than 15,000 students have
completed those programs to date. But, the bigger issue is the
300,000 incumbent workers that need new skills for consistently meeting
the state’s energy efficiency code. And unfortunately, many new
workers learn from incumbents whose on-the-job skills are not up to
par. This workforce is not keeping pace with technology, so the
problem becomes worse over time. Especially troubling is the
expanding gap between traditional functions in the trades versus skills
required for microgrids, energy storage, automated demand response, and
other rapidly evolving technologies.
may seem counterintuitive, but training more people and cultivating
higher skill levels are not the hardest parts of solving the workforce
quality problem. Students – especially millennials – aren’t
lining up to enter the trades. It just not their thing, or so
they think. Employers have trouble releasing their workers to be
trained. Why would they? Most operate in a low-bid
environment where workforce quality isn’t valued, so they have trouble
seeing a return on time lost to training.
systemic change is needed. One that creates new student
perspectives, stronger incentives for employers to develop a quality
workforce, and greater flexibility to invest in training programs with
the highest contribution to the state’s energy efficiency
single organization can “own” the energy efficiency workforce
challenge. The system is comprised of many stakeholders, each
with a different mission and funding stream. So, the California
Community Colleges joined forces with apprenticeship programs for
electricians, sheet metal workers, plumbers and pipefitters, and
building engineers to create a Coalition for Energy
Efficiency. At the same time, it began building advisory
councils among stakeholder groups: Commercial Real Estate
Property Owners and Managers plus associations for the HVAC, Lighting
Controls, Energy Consultants, Facility Management, and Automation
industries. Emerging from these alliances is a common mission to
build a high-capacity pipeline of new workers and to upgrade the
incumbent workforce, all with the competencies to meet California’s
Zero Net Energy mandates.
work remains. Silos and fragmented efforts still characterize
California’s energy efficiency training landscape. Progress is
being accelerated through a California Energy Commission investment to
strengthen the alignment of forces orchestrated by the Community
Colleges. Through this investment, the California Community
Colleges will lead the development of the Workforce Alignment Action
Plan (WAAP) in concert with an industry-led forum focused on energy
efficiency workforce mandates. This forum organizes representatives of
utilities, building owners and managers, contractors, developers,
community colleges, registered apprenticeship programs, workforce
development boards, community-based organizations, and government
agencies in meeting common workforce goals.
back in the trenches, new training initiatives are flourishing.
Our strategy is to give priority to those occupations with the highest
potential to impact overall quality of the energy efficiency
workforce. We initially focused on Building Engineers. This
occupation is strategic because Building Engineers are in a unique
position to control performance in a commercial building. They
connect with everybody – installation contractors, service contractors,
architects, engineers, tenants, owners, and managers. Facility
Managers were the next focal point, adding the dimensions of capital
improvements, project management, cost controls, energy management,
etc. We addressed installation and maintenance by adding energy
efficiency emphasis to existing HVAC and lighting controls technician
Management is the model program. Working with the International
Facility Management Association (IFMA) we signed an agreement to
integrate their Essentials of Facility Management online curriculum
into Associates Degree programs at twenty colleges statewide.
Supporting this licensing arrangement is an Operating Agreement between
the Community Colleges and IFMA to jointly build a Facility Management
Talent Pipeline according to annual plans developed for each region in
the state. In the first few months after execution of these
agreements, two colleges announced Facility Management programs for
this fall, and a third is on track for January.
in California earlier this year, the High-Performance Building Operator
Program (HPBOP) will eventually be available for adoption at community
colleges nationwide. More than 250 stakeholder organizations across the
United States were surveyed to gain acceptance of this ground-breaking
program. Its initial target is custom training for journey-level
workers, but the curriculum is planned for integration into Building
Automation certificate and degree programs. Funding was provided
by the National Science Foundation, Southern California Edison, Pacific
Gas & Electric, and the California Community Colleges.
community colleges are in the process of aligning their HVAC curriculum
with an industry-recognized entry-level credential. When
complete, this alignment will assure consistent student learning
outcomes throughout the state, giving employers a more reliable source
of HVAC technicians. It also provides a foundation for all HVAC
technicians to earn “stackable credentials” in specialty areas such as
refrigeration or advanced controls and in market segments such as
hospitality and hospitals.
Lighting Controls training has been a joint project of IBEW/NECA and
the California Community Colleges for several years. Trainees
include electricians, contractors, and acceptance testers.
Programs are in process for “specifiers” such as architects and
lighting designers and for decision-makers including building owners
is underway for new programs in Advanced Building Automation and Energy
Auditing and Analytics. These programs are supported in some
cases by colleges that have developed “Campus as a Living Lab” to bring
these professions to life.
talent pipeline, of course, needs a strong input to produce the number
of skilled workers needed by industry. Research by UC Davis
revealed ways to effectively attract students into HVAC careers, which
appears to be applicable to many energy efficiency occupations.
An Enrollment Marketing program integrates social media, career
assessment tools, a “Concierge Service” for applicants, and guided
career pathways to build evidence for attracting students who are
likely to complete a certificate or degree program. This pilot
launches later this year and is expected to inform energy efficiency
enrollment campaigns statewide.
legislature is setting a fast pace in clean energy and pollution
reduction. The California Community Colleges are encouraged to
find such strong support for a workforce capable of meeting the state’s
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