When I graduated from college in 2020, I had a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, many different experiences related to environmental and climate issues, and a very difficult time finding a job. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of job I wanted, but I knew I wanted something very closely related to climate change, and that was big picture enough for me to feel like I was really able to make a difference.
I put my resume in the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s internship program portal, and someone from NEEP reached out to me. I’ll admit that my first thought was, “energy efficiency? I don’t know much about that… and it sounds kind of boring.” Two years later, I can confirm that it is not boring!
I started at NEEP as a full-time paid intern, and at the end of my internship I was hired as a staff member. The internship enabled me to come into this field without a lot of technical knowledge or experience, and learn a ton about the industry.
Now I get to pay it forward by working on a NEEP project establishing a brand new clean energy internship program in Maine, funded by the Maine Governor’s Energy Office, called ReMaine.
NEEP is working on the ReMaine Clean Energy Internship Program with The JPI Group, IntWork, NECEC, BPA, and E2Tech to place entry-level candidates in 240-hour, paid internship positions with clean energy employers. The project is particularly focused on placing women (40 percent of overall participants) and BIPOC (30 percent of overall participants) candidates into internships. The program will use grant funding to subsidize 50 percent of wages for employers, handle payroll and HR, offer travel stipends and other supplemental funding, and provide some additional orientation and training outside of the work experiences themselves. Our target for wages is $18-22 an hour.
Through our project partners in Maine, we’ve made connections with a wide range of employers. The internship positions that these employers will offer include weatherization technicians, heat pump installers, mechanical and electrical engineers, building code enforcement support interns, community resilience and energy efficiency interns, and more. These positions serve as an accessible entry point to the industry for people interested in gaining hands-on experience.
During this process, we’ve developed connections with the Maine Department of Labor, local workforce development boards, and an organization called Fedcap Maine that serves Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients with work requirements. We also plan to connect with the community college system in the coming months. Finally, we have put together a Project Advisory Committee which includes some large Maine clean energy employers, colleges, and more.
The first cohort will start this month with an orientation that includes an introduction to the clean energy industry and a soft skills training. Candidates will also all have the opportunity to receive training on the BPI Building Science Principles Certificate of Knowledge and take the online, open-book exam, with all of the fees covered by grant funding.
Many of these employers do have long-term hiring needs, and we hope to see some internships result in full-time employment like mine did at NEEP. If, at the end of the 240 hours, the position wasn’t a great fit or the employer can’t hire them, we will work to support the intern in finding subsequent training or credentialing opportunities or other work placements beyond the program.
This grant is part of Maine’s Clean Energy Partnership, which the Governor’s Energy Office established to meet the state’s clean energy, economic development, and workforce goals. Governor Janet Mills has a goal of more than doubling the energy efficiency and clean energy workforce by 2030. That’s 30,000 new jobs!
It’s no secret that our industry has significant workforce needs that we must meet in order to reach our ambitious climate goals. They key to meeting those goals is a strategy that includes multiple programs, offerings/trainings, and outreach strategies. This internship program may provide a model long beyond the first year of funding. Ultimately, we would love to see this project live on past year one, and we hope that this model proves to be something worth bringing to other states in the NEEP region.