REnEW participants preparing for new opportunities

Program builds self-confidence and job-ready skills for those needing a second chance

KELOWNA, BC, Sept. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - The latest participants in the Residential Energy Efficiency Works (REnEW) program are learning hands-on construction skills and energy-efficiency fundamentals while helping Habitat for Humanity complete a social housing project in Peachland, B.C.

"We're proud of the work these participants are putting into the projects, and we wish them success for the future," said Michael Mulcahy, president and chief executive officer at FortisBC. "FortisBC helped develop this program in 2010 to meet the growing need for people skilled in energy-efficient construction and we're pleased to see immediate benefits on projects like the Habitat for Humanity site."

The REnEW program provides targeted skill development for people in need of a second chance at employment. It's jointly funded by FortisBC and the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, and delivered through the John Howard Society of the Central & South Okanagan.

During the six-week program, participants learn the fundamentals of energy-saving construction and receive a number of construction safety certificates. Participants learn under the guidance of instructors from UK Trades, a Kelowna construction company, and receive hands-on training by helping local non-profit organizations make energy-efficient building upgrades or build energy-efficient structures.

At the end of the program, the John Howard Society shows graduates paths to further their education and provides ongoing employment support. New this year, selected program graduates will also have access to two additional weeks of funded work experience with builders affiliated with the Canadian Home Builders Association-Okanagan.

"It's wonderful to be a part of this program and see the positive changes the REnEW participants experience," said Gaelene Askeland, executive director of the John Howard Society. "Their renewed self-confidence, together with the certificates, hands-on skills and work experience, will all go a long way in helping them overcome the barriers they've faced to employment."

Further background on the REnEW program and application process is available by contacting FortisBC at conservationassistance@fortisbc.com or by visiting fortisbc.com/renew.

Quotes:

Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, Province of B.C.–

We are pleased to contribute to REnEW, a unique program that achieves a number of environmental, social and economic benefits. In particular, the participants' understanding of energy-efficient construction will help improve their communities and British Columbia at large.

Dorian O'Donnell, Program Participant, REnEW–

I wasn't sure I could do it, but now I know I can. It may take me a little longer to catch on, but if someone is patient and works with me, it would be worth it. I know I'd be a hardworking, reliable employee they could count on for a long time.

Deborah Guthrie, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity, Kelowna chapter–

I really appreciate having the REnEW participants on our site and seeing how our project is having additional positive benefits in the community. Each hour the REnEW team puts into our project saves us $170.55 in building costs and furthers our efforts to provide affordable housing in the Okanagan.

Quick facts:

  • FortisBC created REnEW in collaboration with BC Hydro in 2010 to help people who might otherwise experience barriers to employment learn about construction and trades, particularly energy-efficiency construction.
  • Graduates develop the skills needed to apply for entry-level trade/construction positions and receive construction safety-related certifications such as WHIMIS, First Aid and Fall Protection.
  • REnEW has helped more than 130 men and women find work in construction or spur the confidence needed to pursue further education.
  • This initiative is funded by FortisBC and the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, and delivered in partnership with the John Howard Society of the Central & South Okanagan who provides suitable program candidates.
  • The 10-member crew will work on roofing, window installation and insulation for one of the three duplexes under construction at Habitat for Humanity's building site in Peachland, B.C.
  • FortisBC has added a skills enhancement component this year and is working with the Canadian Home Builders' Association – Okanagan to find work experience opportunities for selected participants. So far, nine local builders have agreed to mentor a participant for a minimum of two weeks.
  • The REnEW program has been held in several communities around the province including Vancouver, Chilliwack, Williams Lake, Prince George and Kelowna.
  • In addition to this year's Habitat for Humanity project, past participants helped a number of other non-profit organizations make energy-efficiency upgrades including Freedom's Door recovery housing, Hinode Home senior housing and the Young Parents Program.
  • The REnEW program is one of many programs FortisBC provides to help customers save both natural gas and electricity. All customers can apply the same energy-saving measures in their homes and businesses to help manage their energy costs. Find out more at fortisbc.com/rebates.

FortisBC is a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity and propane. FortisBC employs more than 2,200 British Columbians and serves approximately 1.1 million customers in 135 B.C. communities. FortisBC owns and operates two liquefied natural gas storage facilities and four regulated hydroelectric generating plants, approximately 7,150 kilometres of transmission and distribution power lines, and approximately 46,000 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Inc. and FortisBC Energy Inc. do business as FortisBC. FortisBC is indirectly, wholly owned by Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American electric and gas utility business. Fortis Inc. shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at fortisinc.com or sedar.com.

The John Howard Society of the Central & South Okanagan is a non-profit, charitable organization that offers housing, employment and outreach supports to people who have been involved with the justice system, live with mental health or addiction issues, or other life challenges. Our mandate is to create space for effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime.

SOURCE FortisBC

Image with caption: "Dorain O'Donnell, REnEW participant, has secured a full-time job through support from the program. (CNW Group/FortisBC)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150915_C6035_PHOTO_EN_497547.jpg

Image with caption: "Rod Steuart, REnEW participant, is homeless in Kelowna, B.C. and hopes the program can help him get back on his feet. (CNW Group/FortisBC)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150915_C6035_PHOTO_EN_497549.jpg

For further information: MEDIA CONTACTS: Nicole Bogdanovic, Corporate Communications Advisor, FortisBC, Phone: 250-470-2208, nicole.bogdanovic@fortisbc.com, fortisbc.com, @fortisbc; Gaelene Askeland, Executive Director, John Howard Society of the Central & South Okanagan, Phone: 250-763-1331, ext 201, Cell: 250-808-2264, gaelene.askeland@jhscso.bc.ca

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