The Western Virginia Construction, Retrofitting, and Energy-Efficiency Assessment Training and Employment System (CREATES) initiative offered training and employment services for occupations in two green industries sectors.
In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, green homebuilding practices were migrating from cutting-edge to becoming the “new normal.” The transition from conventional practices to green practices in the building industry required firms to acquire new skills and knowledge to meet market demand for these new technologies. This new knowledge included understanding new technological systems, ranging from solar panel installation to energy efficiency assessments and beyond.
The Western Virginia Construction, Retrofitting, and Energy-Efficiency Assessment Training and Employment System (CREATES) initiative offered training and employment services for occupations in two green industries sectors: a) the energy-efficient building, construction, and retrofit industries, and b) the energy efficiency assessment industry serving residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. The first sector included diverse businesses such as engineering, architecture, general contracting, and construction firms, as well as HVAC, electrical, weatherization, plumbing and related specialists and sub-contractors. These industries have adopted energy efficiency technologies and practices in previous years, adding to the range of services traditionally offered. Training for occupations in this sector required upgrading a core of traditional skills to incorporate these new energy efficiency principles and practices.
Through its network of partners, the CREATES initiative also created a career pathways system to train workers in these industries throughout a broad region of southwestern Virginia. The project’s structure served as a model for regional collaboration by building on existing regional capacities and expertise in these sectors to develop training and employment services at a variety of skills levels. The project partnership solicited input from workers and employers in high-growth, in-demand green construction industries in the region in order to develop curriculum and services to supplement existing training programs.
The lead applicant was Community Housing Partners with Virginia Tech as a ‘co-leader’ for the development of the educational pathway model. Through the coordination of VT’s Office of Economic Development (OED), faculty from several academic departments conducted research, consulting, and the development of a collaborative curriculum authoring and sharing platform. Faculty represented architecture, construction, engineering, and environmental planning programs, housed in various colleges at Virginia Tech.
This project upgraded the capacities of partner organizations and implemented a flexible, comprehensive career pathways system to train and place regional workers in these energy efficient building, retrofitting and assessment industries. This pathways system was designed as an Easy-Entrance/Easy-Exit program using a multi-tiered approach to offer occupational opportunities at various levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities.
A unique component of this project was the development, implementation, and application of a collaborative curriculum development portal based on the ILIAS platform, which allowed for a wiki-based system for curriculum and content development, content management, and content distribution. The wiki concept allowed industry employers, educators, community college faculty, as well as VT faculty and researchers to develop and share curriculum content and collaboratively engage all participants in the overall project goal. Published course content and other information stored within the portal could then be directly made accessible to all project participants. The portal was open to all participants (offering different roles – e.g. educators (authors), instructors (course managers), students (clients), and industry advisors) and served as an additional tool to increase knowledge and understanding of developing overlapping needs for cutting-edge green building and energy assessment occupations and services.
The collaborative development was motivated by known issues of redundancy of content, inconsistent content, and lack of exchange across institutions of different tiers.
To foster collaboration among all stakeholders (educators, employers, public) and to improve curriculum development, distribution, and exchange of content the portal provided for tagging/coding content for re-use with different audiences and/or skill levels.