The State of Illinois is helping its unemployed and underemployed veterans earn the Building Operator Certification (BOC) to gain employment through the BOC Veterans Pilot program. This program directly addresses the issue of higher unemployment among Illinois returning veterans, which was over 11 percent in 2011.
The BOC Veterans Pilot Program, led by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO), the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) and several other state and local organizations, targets veterans who have experience and skills that are readily transferable to commercial building operations and maintenance.
The Springfield program participants served in the US Marine Corps, US Army, and US Air Force. Since August, Springfield-area enrolled veterans have engaged in a rigorous program at Lincoln Land Community College including eight days of technical training on energy-efficient building operations and maintenance, a mentoring program, and several employment workshops led by the Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance.
The entire Illinois program was provided free to qualified veterans – BOC tuition alone would normally cost $1,250. Funding is provided from a variety of agencies, including the DCEO’s State Energy Office, the US Department of Labor State Energy Sector Partnership and the DuPage County Workforce Development Division.
Through the mentoring program, facilities personnel at local organizations volunteer to help veterans complete hands-on projects such as a lighting survey and facility energy use profile. Participating mentors include Henson Robinson Company, Horace Mann Service Corporation, Lincoln Land Community College, and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
Upon graduation on November 15, the BOC-certified veterans will be ready to apply the concepts learned in training to undertake measures such as energy efficiency retrofit projects and indoor air quality improvements. The average energy savings per BOC graduate in Illinois have been estimated by Navigant Consulting to be 181,000 kWh.
MEEA and its Springfield partners are currently working to help participating veterans secure employment in the facilities management profession. The BOC program recently held a breakfast for Springfield-area employers to educate them about the benefits of hiring BOC-certified veterans and enlist their help. Additionally, MEEA and its partners in DuPage County are currently recruiting unemployed and underemployed Illinois veterans to participate in the second pilot program beginning in January 2013 at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.