Workforce Development Opportunities In Building Automation System Training
WRITTEN BY YVE TORRIE, DIRECTOR OF CLIMATE, ENERGY & RESILIENCE
Equitable workforce development and green jobs are currently at the front and center of policy development at every level of government and are a high priority with a variety of different stakeholders ranging from nonprofits to higher education. Although a small part of this important conversation, A Better City, on behalf of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, developed a research paper to look at a niche part of workforce development: the growing need for building automation system (BAS) operators in commercial and institutional buildings in Greater Boston that can maintain building operations at peak energy efficiency. Today’s high-performance buildings place new skill and knowledge demands on facility managers, building operators, engineers, architects, commissioning agents, equipment installers, and other onsite technicians; a lack of these skills and knowledge can prevent high-performance buildings from delivering on their peak energy efficiency. As the building sector remains one of the largest sources of GHG emissions both city- and state-wide, the operation of buildings at peak efficiency is essential to the City of Boston and the Commonwealth reaching their carbon neutrality goals by 2050.
The research paper had three goals:
- To provide an internship opportunity for those training in high efficiency building operations or BAS at the Roxbury Community College’s (RCC) Center for Smart Building Technology, within Boston’s large buildings, where there is a high demand for these skills;
- To provide RCC students from underserved communities with industry-guided internship and skill building opportunities within Boston’s commercial and institutional buildings that can be an entry to well-paying and sought-after jobs; and
- To find a “home” for this internship program to be effectively administered and funded, either as its own program or as part of a broader workforce development and internship program.
To fulfil these goals, the paper looked at student training opportunities in high efficiency building operations or BAS, program administration opportunities, and large building internship opportunities, resulting in the following findings:
- Student Training Opportunities: Roxbury Community College’s Smart Buildings Technology Center, opened in January 2020, has a two-year associates degree and various certifications in BAS. It planned to offer its two-year associates degree in fall 2020 but the pandemic pushed the start date to fall 2021. Throughout 2020, the certificate level courses were offered to professionals currently working in Boston’s large buildings and institutions. The pipeline of new BAS students ready for internship opportunities are, therefore, not expected for one to two years. The other academic institution currently offering these courses is Mass Maritime where students are required to complete a four-year engineering degree. There are new opportunities for these courses to be offered at Madison Park Vocational School in fall 2021. There is also the potential for this to expand to other vocational schools and institutions.
- Program Administration Opportunities: We conducted research and interviewed representatives from federal, state, local, and other organizations to find a “home” for an internship program like this to be administered and funded. Although there are many new workforce development program opportunities emerging, based on recent legislative actions, many are either at bill stage or are recently passed with no structure yet defined. Under the recently passed Climate Bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy,1 for example, the Department of Public Utilities will transfer $12 million from the utilities energy efficiency dollars to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center by the end of 2021, and every year afterward, for a new Clean Energy Equitable Workforce and Market Development Program. This may prove to be a great fit for internship offerings of this nature. There are also well-established workforce development programs within the City of Boston that have had a lot of success. With many pending workforce development internship opportunities, we determined that a decision about where this type of internship would be best administered and funded should come later, once these new opportunities are up and running.
- Large Building Internship Opportunities: Interviews with large building owners in Boston’s commercial and residential sectors revealed a huge potential and demand for BAS technicians and operators, and interest in hosting BAS interns in their buildings. They are willing to pay for internships with students at all stages of BAS training, are keen to start as early as summer 2021, are willing to be flexible with the length of time and the nature of the internship to meet academic internship requirements, and, importantly, see internships as an entry point to full-time positions and careers. As many real estate owners are working to diversify their workforce, they are also enthusiastic about RCC’s focus on promoting the training to the underserved community in which they are located, and to people of color in particular.
As RCC does not yet have students to meet this demand, and many workforce development and internship program administration opportunities are not yet developed, we concluded with potential next steps that include: working with other trade schools, institutes or academic institutions with students in BAS, HVAC, electrical or IT, to offer internships in Boston’s commercial and institutional buildings prior to RCC’s first cohort of students; working with RCC to refine details of an internship program with BAS students coming either from the Center for Smart Building Technology programs or from the dual enrollment program at Madison Park Vocational High School; and monitoring progress on the new and developing workforce development opportunities in order to determine the best program administration for this internship program.
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