Energy Masters 2020 Training FAQ

General Frequently Asked Questions:

Who organizes the training and how is it funded?
The Energy Masters program is managed jointly by EcoAction Arlington and the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Funding is provided by Arlington County through a federal grant and the City of Alexandria.

How long is the training?
Our training consists of six classroom sessions and one Saturday hands on work day. The classroom sessions are typically held on Thursday evenings starting in October. We ask that volunteers miss no more than one training session.

What is covered in the training?
Our training classes cover a wide variety of topics in energy and water efficiency. Sessions cover basic building science, tenant education and an overview of what local municipalities are doing regarding energy use and affordable housing. Volunteers also learn how to do specific energy and water efficiency improvements in apartments and many will use this knowledge to do upgrades in their own homes.

What are the volunteer opportunities available after I complete the training?
Typically, we organize a series of work days where volunteers complete energy and water efficiency upgrades for residents living in affordable housing communities in Arlington and Alexandria. We also offer various education programs for volunteers to share their energy and water efficiency knowledge with the community. With the current pandemic situation, we anticipate needing to adjust some of our volunteer opportunities to larger spaces to accommodate social distancing and offering more programs in a virtual format. We normally require volunteers to commit to 25 hours of volunteer service, but will be flexible on this requirement if our ability to offer programs changes in the winter and spring.

How does the program work for students?
High school students 16 and above are welcome to apply to the program. We ask student volunteers to commit to 20 hour of volunteer service, although we anticipate offering flexibility on that requirement if COVID-19 necessitates a decrease in our programming.

Frequently Asked Questions Specific to COVID-19 

Will the training sessions be held in person or virtually?
While our hope is that the COVID-19 pandemic situation improves greatly by the fall, we realize that we need to have a plan in place to deliver our content virtually. Much of the content for our training sessions is provided through presentations and discussions. Our hope is that we can offer some content in person, but that will depend on the current situation.

How will a virtual training compare to an in-person training?
While we could never replicate the experience of meeting your fellow volunteers in person and providing hands-on opportunities to practice caulking or use a kill-a-watt, we will utilize all tools at our disposal to provide an interesting and engaging learning opportunity. While some content will be provided via speakers and slides, we will also be able to show how-to videos and use breakout rooms to provide greater interaction with your fellow trainees.   

One benefit to holding sessions virtually is that all sessions would be recorded so if you needed to miss a session, you could view the recording before the next class session, which was not a feature available in previous years.

What volunteer opportunities will there be following the training?
Typically, starting with the hands-on training session in November, volunteers work in one affordable housing building once a month to do energy efficiency improvements. Energy Masters are also involved in education and outreach opportunities throughout the year to educate tenants in the housing communities we serve as well as programs and events for the general public.

At this time, we anticipate working in affordable housing apartments this winter might not be possible. We hope the situation improves and by spring 2021 that we can return to working in low-income units. Recognizing there is some uncertainty in what will be possible, we are exploring several contingency options starting this winter that would still provide hands-on volunteer experiences. This could include working in schools, churches, small businesses or group homes where social distancing would be possible. Additionally, there are other opportunities to provide information and materials to residents in affordable housing communities through after-school programs or resident services. Finally, we plan on continuing and/or ramping up outreach efforts to the public which may include doing programming online or through social media.

We normally have set work days on the first Saturday of each month in order to provide a consistent schedule and offer other supplemental volunteer opportunities on weekends and weekdays throughout the winter and spring. Once we determine where our work locations will be and what work we will be doing, we will set a schedule and communicate that to volunteers to plan accordingly. We also anticipate the schedule for 2020-2021 may have to be adjusted throughout the year to accommodate the latest guidelines issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the safety of our volunteers.

Is there a required number of volunteer hours this year?
Typically, once the training is complete, we request volunteers give back 25 hours of community service for adult volunteers and 20 hours for student volunteers. As our volunteer opportunities may look different this winter and spring, we are flexible on that requirement. We certainly hope to provide enough opportunities to meet that criteria, but at this time, it is unknown.

I’d like to volunteer, but can not afford the registration fee. Do you offer waivers?
Our training fee is $75, or $60 if you register before August 15. We offer need based waivers to anyone who would like to complete the training. We offer both reduced fees and fee waivers, depending on your ability to pay.

How will I receive course materials for the training?
For each trainee we provide a textbook which is used for required reading ahead of some training sessions. We also provide Energy Masters branded t-shirts that volunteers wear during work days and events. Volunteers will be able to pick up textbooks at designated dates and locations prior to the start of the training. Volunteers will be able to pick up their Energy Masters shirt at our first available work day.

Will the training be offered in another language besides English?
Unfortunately, at this time, we can only offer the training in English due to the various speakers we utilize to provide educational content. However, we greatly encourage bilingual speakers of all languages to apply as it greatly helps our communication efforts to meet the needs of our diverse, local community.