Support Those Returning From Prison With Skills For Well-Paying HVAC Jobs

Returning citizens prepare for careers and attain nationally recognized certifications. Graduates are desirable applicants for well-paying commercial HVAC jobs.

Johnson Controls International (JCI), made this programming possible by investing in a $250,000 commercial HVAC lab hosted at the ECA Knight Training Center, and continues ongoing curriculum support and training of ECA’s trainers.

ECA will contract with JEVS to provide case management, employability skills, supportive services required for individuals to assimilate back into society, resume preparation, interviewing skills and job placement. The Executive Director of the Re-entry Services at JEVS, Jeff Abramowitz, works with over 100 Re-entry support organizations and returning citizens helping them navigate their re-integration to society and find their career pathway to success.

Funding evaluation of this partnership’s success as a full cohort of returning citizens move through the 600 hours of technical training in order to pursue jobs will build the case for additional sources of scalable and sustainable funding. This program addresses issues regarding recidivism, the opportunity divide for returning citizens, and diversity in the building trades.

What is the community need that this idea addresses?

44% of 18-24 year olds released from prison to Philadelphia are re-arrested within one year. ECA’s location in the 19133 zip code corresponds to the center of Philadelphia neighborhoods hosting the most prison releases, and enrollees in our training programs sometimes have significant challenges in their lives outside the classroom that impact attendance and success. These students need supportive services wrapped around their education. Simultaneously, a majority of the workers in the HVAC field are predominantly middle-aged white men approaching retirement age. There is a present and growing skills gap, even as the HVAC industry maintains a 10-year rate of job growth of 14.7%- double the national average. To meet demand for the installation and maintenance of the systems that keep us comfortable year-round, and in the calibration of these systems to do so with energy efficiency, there are extraordinary workforce development needs.

What is the solution that is currently in place?

ECA has begun commercial HVAC Training Courses with the recently opened JCI Pathways HVAC Training Lab. Currently, funding from the local workforce development authority is sufficient to put one cohort of returning citizens through the program, with wraparound support services for students provided by JEVS Human Services.

This 24 week program integrates the 600 hours of technical HVAC training with contextual education, and makes time for case management and comprehensive support. Technical lessons will be co-taught with literacy/numeracy material, by an ECA technical trainer and reinforced by ECA’s math and literacy instructor who have teamed up to develop lesson plans matching a progression of basic skills through the course’s technical demonstrations.

The existing Pathways Commercial HVAC Maintenance and Repair Program minimizes the disadvantages faced by citizens returning to the community, and seeks to provide them the best opportunity to have a stable re-entry and successful career.

How will a Key to Community Grant help?

A Key to Community Grant will be able to put a full class of returning citizens through the program, support fuller wraparound services, and build in tracking participant experiences and outcomes by a third party evaluator.  This level of evaluation is critical to case-building in structuring long term funding streams. Supporting partnerships with government stakeholders and correctional systems and engaging a third party evaluator will ensure program sustainability, scaling, and improvement.  In the long term, this will help reduce recidivism at a greater scale, saving money for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and positively transforming lives.

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At the ECA, our mission is to help people conserve energy and to promote a sustainable and socially equitable energy future for all. ECA delivers the federal Weatherization Assistance Program in Philadelphia and New Castle County and administers the City of Philadelphia’s Heater Hotline, along with a network of fifteen Neighborhood Energy Centers. ECA also operates the Knight Green Jobs Training Center. For unemployed and underemployed young people, returning citizens, veterans, and older workers looking to re-tool their skills to enter the growing clean energy workforce, ECA offers industry-driven training that integrates classroom theory, literacy and numeracy upskilling, job shadowing, hands-on training, and field experience.  The ECA has partnered with Johnson Controls International (JCI) to launch and create the JCI Pathways HVAC Lab. Students at our facility will have hands-on access to a full and operating commercial HVAC system, laid out across a 2,500 square foot lab.