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Submission For The Record of Veterans Green Jobs

Introduction

Chairman Bill Flores, Ranking Member Mark Takano and Distinguished Members of the House Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with a written statement on behalf of my organization, Veterans Green Jobs, on the important topic of “Exploring Jobs for Veterans in the Energy Sector”. I am a retired career Army officer and a graduate of West Point and serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Veterans Green Jobs, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation, located in Denver, Colorado. Over the past decade, I have been actively involved with employment and educational issues for our military veterans, particularly those in the post-9/11 combat era, in higher education at Colorado State University and in the non-profit sector.

Veterans Green Jobs Organization

Veterans Green Jobs was founded in 2008. Our mission is to engage, transition, and connect military veterans with meaningful employment opportunities that serve our communities and environment.  We work to inspire hope and confidence in our veterans for a positive future for themselves, their families and their communities. Our vision is to empower veterans to utilize their military service to become leaders in a new mission that helps our nation achieve energy efficiency, energy independence and security, natural resources conservation and the resulting environmental, social and economic benefits.  We have focused our efforts on programs that offer veterans concrete skill building and job placement in a variety of green careers. We view unemployment as a risk multiplier for all other obstacles a veteran faces.  The lack of a stable career, which provides a veteran with a sense of purpose, compounds problems with healthcare, personal relationships, and other issues, and acts as a road block to successful reintegration into our communities.

Veterans Green Jobs Programs in Residential Energy Efficiency

Our efforts over the past five years have been to assist transitioning veterans with securing meaningful employment in the green sectors of our economy, include residential energy efficiency and renewable energy, the latter with an emphasis on the solar industry. We have also been successful in placing hundreds of veterans into outdoor conservation and wild land firefighting positions through partnerships with regional and state-level Conservation Corps and federal land management agencies. Within the energy sector, Veterans Green Jobs has undertaken two major programmatic efforts: 1) employing veterans to perform residential energy efficiency services in weatherization for local communities, and 2) providing networking and job placement services for interested veterans with businesses and corporations in the renewable energy industry.

For the past five years, through contracts with the Colorado Energy Office, and under the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), we have served the citizens of two metropolitan counties in Colorado with low-income, residential weatherization services. Our own full-time workforce, which has varied in size from 100 to 40 full-time employees over the past five years, has included a 30% veteran component, including veterans from all eras. In our current workforce of forty full-time employees, we employ six veterans in positions as weatherization technicians, three veterans as furnace technicians, and four veterans in management and support positions. Our veterans represent all branches of the Armed Forces and numerous military occupational specialties, both technical and combat arms. On-the-job training is provided and certifications in building science and performance must be achieved in the first year. Furnace technicians require more specialized certifications and licensing.

One of our current veteran weatherization technicians, Matt Rynders, a former Army combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served as a Black Hawk helicopter door gunner, and was featured in a cover story in the Denver Business Journal (When the tour of duty ends, DBJ, November 8-13, 2013). Matt is typical of many of our veterans who want a steady-job with a purpose. Matt has developed a greater awareness about energy and energy use in recent years – and enjoys spreading his enthusiasm. He remembers 95-degree summer days 15 years ago and now considers 105 degrees the norm. “I see the planet changing. If we can get more people interested in doing things like increasing our efficiencies and getting educated, we can change. It’s one more brick on the foundation of creating a green environment. ”Before coming to Veterans Green Jobs, Matt looked for ways to apply his sensibilities about the environment in his line of work and study. He considered working in the wind energy industry, and studied it for a while, but decided to focus his time on working at Veterans Green Jobs weatherizing homes, where he continues to learn and explore new ways of becoming more energy efficient – not only for the benefit of clients, but for himself as well. “I never thought about why I should insulate walls and attics, or how building science works – like how buildings breathe and whether they are vented properly,” he says, adding that many homeowners likely don’t think about these things, either, but now they will.

The energy efficiency sector, both residential and commercial, presents a variety of job and career opportunities for veterans, combining their technical, communication and social skills. In addition to entry level technical positions, more advanced jobs as building energy raters and energy auditors are available. Generally, these jobs will require veterans to achieve industry certifications through community or for-profit colleges and other training institutions.

Growing Interest of Veterans in the Renewable Energy Sector

Our veterans, who have served our nation in both peace and war, understand the importance of sustaining our economy, environment and society through energy efficiency practices and the growth of clean and renewable energy. Whether it be through education or training, we have found that veterans are seeking opportunities that are more than just a good-paying job, but that will allow them to continue to serve their communities, use their technical, teamwork and cultural skills, and make a difference in the future of the nation – addressing urgent national and local issues such as energy security, environmental stewardship and community development.

They highly value the natural resources and natural environment that help define our way of life. They have seen first-hand, in deployments abroad, how the degradation of environmental quality impacts society. They also understand the operational advantages of using alternative energy in combat theaters, and have witnessed the significant investments being made by the Department of Defense to develop renewables for energy use on military installations and in other operational contexts. Thus, there is a strong connection between their military experiences with energy use and the applications that transfer to the job market and civilian sector.

Interest amongst veterans for employment in the renewable energy sector is growing. This interest is evidenced in a recent report (February 2014) entitled Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Future, co-published by the Solar Foundation and Operation Free, a clean energy campaign of the  Truman National Security Project and Center for National Policy, both located in Washington, D.C. The report, cited in an article published on GreenBiz (http://www.greenbiz.com,2014-04-08), entitled “Why are so many veterans serving in the solar industry,?” reports the growing number of veterans being employed in the solar industry. Veterans compose 9.2 percent of the 143,000-member workforce, compared to 7.6 percent of the workforce nation-wide. Additionally, as cited in both of these references, veterans are taking a leadership role in the industry serving in key management, business and financial positions as the industry grows. Non –profit organizations in solar, such as GRID Alternatives and Solar Energy International, both with offices in Colorado, have partnered with Veterans Green Jobs to promote solar installation training opportunities for veterans. Finally, a number of two-year technical schools have emerged to provide education and training in the renewable energy sector, attracting significant enrollments from student-veterans. For example, one of our educational partners, Ecotech Institute in Denver, a for-profit institution providing 2-year technical programs in renewable energy, has seen its student-veteran population increase to 28% of enrolled students in only three years, and anticipates further growth in its student-veteran population.

Success in placing veterans in energy jobs requires partnerships with a variety of organizations. At Veterans Green Jobs we have partnered, in both the veterans and energy space, with numerous government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations, and institutions of higher learning, to promote job opportunities for veterans in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors. In Colorado, for example, we have worked closely with the Colorado Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense organization, to both employ Guard and Reserve members, as well as participate in their Military and Veterans Employment Expo, held annually in Colorado Springs – a city with several large military installations. These highly successful employment events, attended by over 1,000 military and veteran members, provide both training for veterans on how to transition and prepare themselves for the job market, in concert with a traditional job fair with companies committed to hiring veterans. All of our programs represent “boots on the ground” for putting veterans back to work. 

Actions Necessary to Encourage and Place Veterans in the Energy Sector

Despite the positive trends in jobs for veterans in the energy efficiency/renewable energy sectors, there are several actions that should be taken to further develop these opportunities and ensure growth of jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries for veterans:

  1. Energy corporations must take the lead in formally stating their commitment to hire veterans. Large corporations committed to energy services and renewable energy, such as General Electric, Siemens and Xcel Energy, have been strong advocates for veteran friendly hiring commitments and practices. For example, Xcel Energy recently (May 14, 2014 in Denver, CO) held a major event with the ESGR to sign a Statement of Support pledge in support of National Guard and Reservist employees and to promote the hiring of Guard/Reserve members and veterans. However, many other companies in these industries have lagged behind in making commitments and investments in veterans, not only to hire them, but to ensure a supportive institutional culture once they are on board. Best practices from these leaders in the industry should be identified and distributed widely.
  1. Outreach to veterans from the energy industry is essential as they transition from the military. Corporations and businesses in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors must more fully engage the non-profit sector and the higher education sector through partnerships and philanthropic support to promote veterans outreach, job and career counseling and placement opportunities for veterans in these industries. In addition to government employment programs for veterans, non-profits and educational institutions engage large numbers of transitioning service members and can provide networking and career guidance for individual veterans into these industries. Transitioning veterans are often unaware of the growing opportunities in these sectors.
  1. Government contracting procedures for energy efficiency and renewable energy services, at both the State and Federal levels, must strongly consider the veterans workforce in making decisions about contract awards in energy efficiency and renewable energy services contracts. Large investments in renewable energy are being made by the Department of Defense on military installations. For example, the Army’s Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) has announced a $7B, 30-year Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC) to install and operate large renewable/alternative energy projects on military installations. One hundred renewable energy companies have been pre-qualified to compete for these contracts. Energy companies with a demonstrated commitment to a veterans’ workforce should be given additional consideration for these contract awards on military installations. Similarly, other government contracts, such as those in residential energy efficiency for low-income communities, should give preference to organizations who have established successful veterans’ hiring programs.

In executing our programs over the past six years we have learned a great deal about the employment challenges facing veterans. There are numerous organizations and public offices in the space of veterans’ employment. In our experiences, the programs with the greatest successes in employing veterans have incorporated the following elements:

  • Full spectrum employment assistance with defined linkages from training and education to direct job placement
  • A sense of service and organizational culture that transforms their military service into other forms of national and community service
  • A living wage or stipend for internships or training that allows veterans to support themselves and their families with some income while earning certifications and training to prepare them for civilian employment
  • Well communicated employment/job resources that are easy to locate and access
  • Personal guidance and mentorship that helps individual veterans find training and careers based on their experience and interests

Conclusion

Chairman Flores, Veterans Green Jobs is a nonprofit corporation serving the employment needs and interests of veterans in the growing energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors. We are fully aware of the challenges facing our veterans as they exit military service and return to our communities. Our Board of Directors and non-profit staff are composed of professionals, both veteran and non-veteran, who strongly believe the energy sector provides tremendous job opportunities for our veterans. We believe that public-private-nonprofit partnerships are essential to fulfilling these opportunities. This concludes my written statement.


STATEMENT OF DISCLOSURE

Veterans Green Jobs, a 501 (c) 3 organization, received the following contract awards through the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) in FY12-13 and FY13-14. Funds were appropriated for this grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) for Low-Income Persons, CFR Part 440, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Veterans Green Jobs was a sub-grantee for this program in Region 9 of Colorado, serving Denver and Jefferson Counties. The following contracts were awarded: FY12-13: $ 2,389,559; FY13-14: $3,344,221.

CURRICULUM VITAE

Dr. William (Bill) Doe is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Veterans Green Jobs, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation, located in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Doe is a career Army veteran having served on active duty in the Army Corps of Engineers for 22 years and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served on the faculty there as an Academy Professor of Geography and Environment. He holds graduate degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of New Hampshire (M.S.) and Colorado State University (Ph.D.). Upon completion of his active duty service, Dr. Doe was a senior environmental researcher, associate professor and administrator at Colorado State University where he directed environmental management contracts, services and applied research on military installations in the U.S. and Germany. His areas of expertise include military lands management, environmental and watershed management, renewable energy and the study of warfare ecology and military geography. He has authored numerous book chapters and articles on these subjects, and teaches both resident and on-line courses in sustainability for several institutions of higher learning. He is active in veterans and student-veterans affairs in Colorado.