When Kevin Farrell, director of training for Conservation Services Group (CSG), found himself surrounded by attendees at a recent trade show, he was pleasantly surprised. The firm had decided to have him attend the event at the last minute to demonstrate CSG’s new online building science curriculum. He had no idea that the new learning tool would generate such a buzz.
The new courses combine elements used in advertising and news—storyboarding, crisp graphics, interactive features, multimedia, and video—to grab viewers and keep them engaged. So far, the feedback has been very positive. Needless to say, going to the trade show was a very good call.
For nearly 30 years CSG has kept true to its mission: to make homes and buildings safer, healthier, and more comfortable, durable, and affordable; and to create a sustainable industry focused on the wise use of energy. Reflecting this philosophy, CSG trains contractors and building professionals to ensure that high performance standards are consistently being met.
Online education is an exciting new aspect of CSG’s training division, but the company will continue to use in-class instructors, as it has done for the past 20 years. (See “Training at CSG”.) “Classroom learning is important, and we’ll always have instructors. Nothing beats the personal interactions the live sessions bring,” says Farrell.
C S G h as seen a growing interest in technical education in recent years, as the state and federal governments have set higher standards for weatherization work. As a result, utilities, consumers, housing agencies, and other organizations are looking for accredited contractors to ensure quality and measurable energy savings. The need for improved qualifications is driving the demand for continuing education for contractors all over the country.
Mark Dyen, a CSG executive vice president, says another big change in the industry is that jobs in building science are becoming a career path. “There are many more places where excellent training is available, such as at trade schools, community colleges and job centers. Training is carving out a wider niche in the industry,” he says.
The History of Training at CSG
Twenty years ago, training sessions were held in a small conference room in CSG’s first office in Boston. Space was limited to just ten CSG staff members. The overhead projector was king. Old-fashioned, wooden dollhouse-like structures were used to illustrate concepts. Few people had ever seen a CFL, and infrared scanners cost a whopping $25,000 each. No one formally taught applied building science (ABS) techniques. Dyen, who has been with CSG since its early training days, says, “The integration of whole-house methods and ABS principles has been part of our curriculum design from the beginning. These concepts are still being taught today.”
Services grew significantly in the mid- 1990s, when open-market training became available and CSG’s contractor network expanded. But in 2000, building education at the energy services firm really took off. Big programs got bigger. Contract requirements became more stringent. In 2009, when an infusion of federal stimulus money became available for weatherization programs, states had to ramp up training quickly. Building education exploded at CSG, and the firm was educating hundreds of contractors in shifts to accommodate the demand.