Illinois Program Helps Veterans Get Jobs, Save Energy
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Nov. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The State of Illinois is helping its unemployed and underemployed veterans earn the nationally-recognized Building Operator Certification (BOC®) and achieve gainful employment through the BOC Veterans Pilot program. This program directly addresses the issue of higher unemployment among Illinois returning veterans which was over 11% in 2011.
The BOC Veterans Pilot Program, led by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO), the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) and several other state and local organizations, targets veterans who have experience and skills that are readily transferable to commercial building operations and maintenance. The Springfield program participants served in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force.
"MEEA brought the veterans workforce development program to Illinois because it was an ideal win-win. We train returning veterans for jobs at home and those jobs will save Illinois businesses energy and money," said Jay Wrobel, Executive Director of MEEA.
Since August, Springfield-area enrolled veterans have engaged in a rigorous program at Lincoln Land Community College including eight days of technical training on energy-efficient building operations and maintenance, a mentoring program, and several employment workshops led by the Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance which focused on topics such as resume building, interviewing skills, and job searching.
The entire Illinois program was provided free to qualified veterans – BOC tuition alone would normally cost $1,250. The BOC program is sponsored by DCEO's State Energy Office, with additional funds for the veterans pilot provided by the U.S. Department of Labor State Energy Sector Partnership grant, which is administered by DCEO's Office of Employment and Training in conjunction with the Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance.
The program also received federal Workforce Investment Act funds through the DuPage County Workforce Development Division. A full list of project partners can be viewed at http://www.boccentral.org. The pilot is also featured as a 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America Commitment to Action. To learn more, visit cgiamerica.org.
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"What a great opportunity this program has afforded me. I have thoroughly enjoyed the BOC program and have gained a lot of useful knowledge to help me develop a rewarding career," said program participant Michael Wright.
As the project sponsor, DCEO champions the pilots' benefits – addressing the issue of unemployed Illinois veterans while saving energy and money for Illinois businesses and organizations.
"We must strengthen the returning veteran's access to training that will lead to a job in Illinois. To do that with an energy efficiency savings skill set supports another public mission that our veterans can help us accomplish," said DCEO Director David Vaught.
Through the mentoring program, facilities personnel at local organizations volunteer to help veterans complete hands-on projects such as a lighting survey and facility energy use profile. Participating mentors include Henson Robinson Company, Horace Mann Service Corporation, Lincoln Land Community College, and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
"We at IDVA know that one of the greatest challenges veterans face is acquiring relevant certification and training for civilian careers," said Erica Borggren, Director the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. "The BOC program is a great example of public-private partnership to help veterans train for and transition into a meaningful civilian career."
Upon graduation on November 15, the BOC-certified veterans will be ready to apply the concepts learned in training to undertake measures such as energy efficiency retrofit projects and indoor air quality improvements. The average energy savings per BOC graduate in Illinois have been estimated by Navigant Consulting to be 181,000 kWh and 557 therms per year.
MEEA and its Springfield partners are currently working to help participating veterans secure employment in the facilities management profession. The BOC program recently held a breakfast for Springfield-area employers to educate them about the benefits of hiring BOC-certified veterans and enlist their help.
Additionally, MEEA and its partners in DuPage County are currently recruiting unemployed and underemployed Illinois veterans to participate in the second pilot program beginning in January 2013 at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL.