County to train veterans to help with weatherization efforts

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Allegheny County wants to make sure that local veterans have the skills to do the kind of residential weatherization work that can be paid for with federal economic stimulus funds.

Veterans who qualify for the free job-training program will take classes at the community college that lead to state certification in techniques for making homes and apartments more energy efficient.

"Allegheny County is proud to expand our efforts to provide the men and women who have served our country with access to quality job training and employment opportunities," county Executive Dan Onorato said in a statement announcing the program.

The name of the new program -- Resources Available for Military Personnel to Upgrade Proficiencies -- forms an acronym: "RAMP UP." Teaming up with the county are PA CareerLink and Community College of Allegheny County.

Allegheny County has about 135,000 veterans. That number is the second largest for any county in the country behind Orange County, Calif. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of those veterans are from the post-Vietnam era and are most likely to benefit from the new effort, according to Ron Conley, manager of the county's Veterans' Services office.

RAMP UP includes two elements. First, it will offer free courses for veterans interested in becoming weatherization workers or energy auditors. Second, it will assist veterans who own businesses to become certified weatherization contractors.

PA CareerLink will screen veterans interested in the program. The community college will provide the training and certification through its Green Institute. Both efforts will be funded by funded by federal economic stimulus money.

Additional information on the training program is available by calling Veterans' Services at 412-621-4357.

Veterans who become certified in weatherization techniques should not lack for work.

Mr. Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced late last year that about $20 million in weatherization grants would be available over the next two years to finance improvements for about 2,900 homes and apartments. To qualify for weatherization grants, owners or occupants can have annual income up to 200 percent of the poverty rate, which is $21,660 for an individual and $44,100 for a family of four.

The grants are worth up to $6,500, and it is estimated families could save up to $400 per year in lower utility costs.

Elements of a typical weatherization effort include completion of an energy audit, inspection of heating and cooling systems, and insulation of doors, windows, hot-water pipes and hot-water tanks.

More information on obtaining a weatherization grant is available at the following numbers:

City residents, 412-227-5700, Ext. 2102.

Southern Allegheny County residents and those living in the Mon Valley, 412-678-8622.

County residents in all other areas, 412-227-3700, ext. 2106 or 2053.

RAMP UP is not the county's first effort to support job training for veterans. Working with the state Department of Labor and Steamfitters Union Local 449, the county has co-sponsored a welding program.

More than a dozen veterans have enrolled in three-day-a-week welding classes, Mr. Conley said. Additional information on that program also is available at his office.

The unemployment rate for veterans tends to be higher than for civilians of similar ages, Mr. Conley said.

"I don't have a clue why that should be," he said. "Most employers will tell you veterans are more likely to stay with a company. They come in knowing how to work as a team and how to take orders."

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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