In early November I attended the Building Performance Association’s New England Home Performance Conference, where we discussed program design, common barriers to building decarbonization, and one recurring theme… workforce. I presented with staff from the Maine Governor’s Energy Office and Maine Housing on this very topic. My presentation highlighted the results of the first year of ReMaine, the clean energy internship program NEEP launched in October of 2022. I was amazed at how engaged people were in the session at the end of two long days, which shows its importance.

ReMaine is a workforce development program in which NEEP, The JPI Group, IntWork, and other partners recruit and screen job seekers, connect them with clean energy employers, support them in working and learning on the job during a 240-hour internship, and subsidize 50 percent of wages. We set the wage range between $18-22 an hour, and focused on recruiting women and BIPOC interns. The intention of this workforce development program is to create an accessible entry point to the clean energy industry through paid work experience.

We wrapped up the first year of the ReMaine program this past September and have a lot of feedback, through both successes and lessons learned. In year one, we placed 26 interns with 17 different employers. All of these interns completed their hours, and the average wage was $19.90 per hour. Upon completing their hours, eight of the 26 interns were offered full time jobs with their employers. The types of jobs varied widely, from weatherization technicians and heat pump installers to engineers, administrative support, communications interns, and carpenters.

The team was successful in recruiting diverse candidates. We started with a candidate goal of 40 percent women and 30 percent Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and we surpassed that goal. Fifty seven percent of our interns are women and 38 percent are BIPOC. The clean energy industry has a long way to go to be representative of the country in terms of gender and racial make-up, so we were very happy to exceed our goals for intern diversity.

The road wasn’t smooth the whole way, we learned a lot of things during the process:

  • It takes time to build new relationships and program awareness – It took us time to figure out how best to collaborate with the Department of Labor and their regional workforce development boards, as well as other organizations doing workforce development in the state.
  • Some positions are more difficult to recruit for than others – The positions that were most difficult to fill proved to be weatherization technician roles and those in more rural parts of the state. Maine is very rural, accounting for 40 percent of the land area in New England and only about 10 percent of the population.
  • Specific timing/order of operations lends itself to greater success – Early in the year, NEEP asked IntWork to refer us several candidates so that we could tell employers about the kinds of skills our candidates possessed. Ultimately, we realized that we needed to line up job descriptions and locations before spending much effort on recruiting.

Ultimately, the team ended up doing much more extensive recruiting than originally planned, which was a great learning experience. IntWork referred candidates they had personal connections with and The JPI Group did a lot of online recruiting. The fact that we worked with so many different employers in different sectors of the industry also made recruiting more complex.

This project is sponsored by the Maine Governor’s Energy Office’s Clean Energy Partnerships program, which is funded by the American Recovery Plan Act. In September the Governor’s Energy Office extended the grant, allowing the program to continue in 2024, and we now plan to place 16 more interns. Next year, we will focus on building partnerships with organizations that serve job seekers across the state, such as Portland Adult Education and JMG (Jobs for Maine Graduates). From there we plan to secure employers, finalize job descriptions, and start placing interns in early 2024. In addition to placing interns in year two, we will develop a program model outlining program guidelines, lessons learned, and potential sponsors to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

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