2021 brought another great year for the Inspiring Efficiency Awards. We had dozens of outstanding applicants working for energy efficiency in their communities. The winners were selected by an incredible group of volunteers who dedicated their time to choosing one or two winners in each category. The 2022 IEA applications are officially open, and we wanted to highlight the 2021 winners once more to share their strengths and inspire you in your application.
There are many esteemed categories for the IEAs and our first blog post features the 2021 winner from the Education category. The Inspiring Efficiency Education Award is presented to an applicant who succeeds in increasing knowledge and action on energy efficiency amongst policy makers, stakeholders and customers through a local campaign or strategy.
This year’s Inspiring Efficiency Education Award Winner was the Ameren Illinois Market Development Initiative (MDI). Through the MDI, Ameren offered an Internship Program to foster a new generation of diverse workers in the field. The internship program continued to evolve through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they were still serving their communities as the needs of their community shifted. To learn more about what made the program so successful, we interviewed the folks at Ameren. See what we learned below:
Q: What makes your program stand out?
Ameren Illinois is helping local companies and organizations in the energy efficiency field identify and hire individuals that would benefit from serving in a summer internship program. Through partnerships with energy efficiency employers, interns learn about employment opportunities related to energy efficiency, receive mentorship from professionals in the industry and learn skills relevant to obtaining a full-time position in energy efficiency. As an added benefit, the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program reimburses the payroll costs for company or organization hosting the intern!
Q: What needs did you see in your community that motivated you to start your program?
Through conversations with our Program Ally contractors and non-profit partners, we identified a need for workers. In 2018 the Market Development Initiative was introduced with a goal to strengthen the local energy efficiency economy by providing resources, support and solutions to residential and business customers throughout our communities in central and southern Illinois. By partnering with community-based organizations to identify needs and opportunities, Ameren Illinois has been able to create and execute energy efficiency programs that benefit all customers, including workforce development and job training opportunities.
Q: What advice do you have for others who may be inspired by your program?
When planning, think about it from the employer’s and the intern's perspectives! For the employers, make the application to participate as simple as possible and provide them with the resources they need throughout the entire process and throughout the life of the internship. For the interns, make sure that you are engaging with them to meet their needs. Do they like virtual webinars with cameras on? Do they prefer to communicate through chat? Also, make sure that the energy efficiency materials you are sharing with them are inclusive for all education levels.
Q: What part of your program are you most proud of?
We have had several interns hired full time at the end of each summer! The majority of the time the interns have zero energy efficiency experience when they start. It's fun to watch them throughout the program and see how they navigate through their career.
Q: Taking everything you have learned from this program, what do you see as future steps to continue to address the needs of your community?
Listening to the Program Staff in the field is key to our success. Learning what is important to their customer's workforce, what pitfalls and roadblocks they are having with finding qualified job seekers and addressing those needs!
Ameren truly went above and beyond to address their communities’ need for workers. Through high engagement with stakeholders and constant communication with interns to ensure the program best fit their needs, Ameren implemented a strong program to aid in workforce development.
Did your team or organization implement a program or contribute positively to your community in the last two years? Consider applying for the 2022 Inspiring Efficiency Awards! The applications are open until September 17th and you can find the forms here.