More than 25% of construction workers are unemployed. A third of U.S. electricity is consumed by 130 million homes. Every million homes retrofitted will create 120,000 jobs. However crunched, the numbers make a compelling case for aligning the dual goals of putting people to work and tightening up homes. To that end, industry and government are cooperating to an extent not seen since the 1940s to quickly train and deploy the right workforce for the job.

Besides Home Star legislation  and industry certifications, a major effort involves developing voluntary national standards for a home-performance “workforce certification” process, per Vice President Joe Biden’s Recovery Through Retrofit strategy.

Now in development, this interagency process will result in recommendations “for retrofit workers writ large,” including auditors, installers, and manufacturers, says an agency representative. Proposed standards are expected to be unveiled in the fall, followed by a comment period.

Also in D.C., a coalition called Skills for America — Now! launched in April to give millions of Americans “the right skills at the right time.” Eleven groups, including the Association for Career and Technical Education and the Home Builders Institute, are behind this effort, whose goals include a payroll tax credit for employee training.

How many people to train? Insiders say that number is for the market to decide, but some compare the effort to Training Within Industry (TWI), invented to scale up manufacturing to meet the nation’s needs during World War II.

That analogy “draws on the best of what America has to offer, in terms of innovation, community, and really leveraging partnerships between industry and federal government,” says the agency representative. “The stakes are very high. A huge workforce needs jobs.”

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.

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