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Preparing Your Organization for Decarbonization

Staff Training and Workforce Development Can Address Gaps in Commercial and Industrial Decarbonization Strategies

Efforts to decarbonize commercial, industrial, and multifamily buildings bring up a variety of challenges – retrofit complexities, compliance with regulations, and operating new technologies. However, these efforts also bring opportunities – energy savings, improved air quality, and greater resilience.

For many building owners and property managers, workforce development represents both a challenge and an opportunity to advance decarbonization. On the one hand, preparing and retaining a workforce that is equipped with the institutional knowledge and skills needed for efficiency gains and building electrification is fundamental to a cost-effective decarbonization strategy. While on the other hand, recruiting and training employees to implement efficiency improvements and manage new building systems requires time and resources.

Improving energy efficiency is the first step to decarbonization, and facilities teams are key to reducing building energy loads through system controls and optimization, as well as preventative maintenance to ensure reliability and safety alongside energy savings. Enhancing maintenance practices is also one of the most immediate and low-cost interventions property owners and facility managers can implement to jumpstart their decarbonization journey.

Leveraging Workforce Development for Building Decarbonization

It’s essential that facilities teams, especially operations and maintenance staff, understand how to manage, service, and optimize building energy systems – both to help identify and implement decarbonization strategies.

Prestige Management, a real estate management firm in New York City, partnered with the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) to develop customized energy efficiency training for 23 employees responsible for managing 20 different buildings. The program focused on Prestige Management’s leading decarbonization priorities: heating systems and building controls.

AEA held separate sessions for operators with steam heating and hot water systems to address their different needs and challenges. They found, on average, buildings with trained operators reduced their heating energy use by 5% when compared to the prior year.

The facility managers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also faced challenges with maintaining efficient operations of their increasingly complex building systems. In partnership with the CUNY Building Performance Lab and the Refrigeration Institute, the healthcare facility developed a training curriculum to prepare new and existing staff for advancing efficiency across 4.5 million square feet of real estate.

After training 32 building operators, the Center launched a coaching pilot program for existing staff to mentor new hires to the facilities team. Additionally, an 18-month apprenticeship program prepared 12 recruits with on-the-job coaching and 1,200 hours of classroom training to help lead high-performance operations and maintenance.

Together, these initiatives are preparing the next generation of facilities staff – an emerging need as many senior building operators are poised to retire in the coming years.

Tap Into a Growing Clean Energy Workforce

The scale of investment required to transform New York’s energy systems and buildings to achieve the State’s nation-leading climate goals will create thousands of jobs across the clean energy supply chain and numerous economic sectors. To help meet this demand, New York State is focused on growing its clean energy economy by attracting and retaining key industries, supporting innovation, and investing in workforce development.

In addition to the building operations and maintenance staff training for facility and property managers outlined above, financial support is available for clean energy businesses and organizations to train and hire New Yorkers.

Businesses and nonprofits working in clean energy or energy efficiency services can access funding to hire interns – either current students or recent graduates in New York State – to increase their organizational capacity. Similarly, clean energy businesses can get reimbursed for providing up to 24 weeks of on-the-job training to new hires.

Community-based organizations, public entities, and businesses working to advance clean energy in disadvantaged communities may be eligible for funding to hire full-time Climate Justice Fellows. Beyond increasing near-term capacity, the one-year fellowship is also serving as a talent pipeline for host organizations to hire candidates as full-time employees after completing their one-year of service.


“The opportunity to upscale so many excellent people has been invaluable for our company. The financial support to onboard fellows was critical for a resource-constrained startup.”

- Derek LaClair, CFO of Empower Equity Inc.


Recruiting talent from local communities has shown to enhance organization’s service delivery.

“Fellows are from the communities we serve. Their families live and work here,” notes Jordan Magid, Head of Operations at Dollaride. “As a business, it creates a layer of trust that’s just not accessible without that community expertise," adds Magid.

Building Capacity for a Decarbonized Future

Decarbonization touches nearly every aspect of building operations, from HVAC systems to the building envelope and installation of onsite renewables. Tapping into New York State programs and local talent can help reduce the risk and magnify the benefits of investing in workforce development.

For facility and property managers, having a skilled and knowledgeable team is an essential component of a strategic energy plan that makes the most of clean energy investments. Staff training has shown to be an effective strategy to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the near-term, a critical step to making building decarbonization a feasible and value-adding investment.

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