The latest graduates from the Residential Energy Efficiency Works (REnEW) program leave with both a new set of skills in an emerging and in-demand field and the confidence needed to make positive changes in their lives.
The 13-member class (11 men and two women) is the sixth group trained in Kelowna. It’s also the largest graduating class since the program first started back in 2010.
FortisBC created REnEW in collaboration with BC Hydro in 2010 to help people who might otherwise experience barriers to employment learn about construction and trades, particularly energy efficiency work.
For many, the barriers are the result of a lifelong struggle with poverty, disability or some other limitation.
“Training and skills development are the best tools we have to help people overcome employment barriers,” said Shelley Cook, executive director of the John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan, the organization that administers REnEW in Kelowna. “It’s amazing and inspiring to see the tremendous positive change in just six short weeks; participants leave REnEW with a sense of great accomplishment and the confidence needed to move forward and improve their lives.”
During the six-week program, participants learn hands-on job skills, such as the fundamentals of energy efficiency, installation of energy saving technologies, first aid and fall protection. They also receive personal employment coaching and support.
Participants give back to their communities by applying their newly learned skills to help others become more energy efficient. The 13-member crew recently completed energy-efficient upgrades to Hinode Home – a housing complex for seniors on fixed incomes – guided by instructors from Kelowna construction company UK Trades.
The work would have cost approximately $75,000 if it weren’t for the business sponsors from the community, program participants and the funding partners.
“The REnEW program demonstrates the great things that can happen when we provide opportunities that give people a chance to succeed and realize their full potential,” said Sarah Smith, director of energy efficiency and conservation at FortisBC. “On behalf of FortisBC, I’d like to congratulate the graduates on their great achievement. We look forward to hearing about their successes in the future.”
REnEW has helped more than 120 men and women go on to find work in construction or spur the confidence needed to pursue further educational opportunities.
“It’s wonderful to see REnEW graduate the largest class size in the program’s history. Thanks to the REnEW program, students have been able to overcome barriers to education such as cost and disability. The graduates are now experts in energy efficiency and we are proud they were able to help a seniors’ housing development in Kelowna,” Joanna Sofield, general manager of BC Hydro customer care and Power Smart.
REnEW is administered regularly throughout the province by local non-profit organizations. Past classes have also taken place in Vancouver, Chilliwack, Prince George and Williams Lake.
For more information on the program visit www.fortisbc.com/REnEW.