North Central / Regional Reports

New Program Helps Veterans Get Jobs, Save Energy

CHICAGO — The state of Illinois and DuPage County are helping unemployed and underemployed military veterans get jobs in the growing field of building operations and maintenance through a pilot version of the Building Operator Certification® (BOC) program. The new program was created to address the issue of unemployment among returning servicemen and women, which was 9.9 percent in 2012 for post-9/11 veterans compared to 7.9 percent for nonveterans.

The BOC Veterans program, led by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), and several other state and local organizations, is designed to help veterans who have experience and skills that are readily transferable to commercial building operations and maintenance bridge the gap to civilian careers.

“The first of its kind in the nation, this training pilot benefits both veterans and their prospective employers,” said Jay Wrobel, executive director of MEEA. “The veterans are ready to apply the concepts learned in BOC training to help Illinois businesses save money and energy immediately through no or low cost actions.”

The BOC Veterans program launched in Springfield in late 2012 and in DuPage County in January of this year. Participating DuPage veterans have received 74 hours of training at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, including classroom work, assessment, and hands-on projects on topics such as HVAC and electrical systems, efficient lighting, and indoor air quality. BOC tuition alone would normally cost $1,250, but the program is free to qualified veterans thanks to funding from the DCEO’s State Energy Office and federal Workforce Investment Act funds through the DuPage County Workforce Development Division (WDD) and other partners.

To ensure veterans get the real world experience they need, the program also matches them with facilities staff from community organizations such as DuPage County, Wheaton College, and Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, who volunteered their time to mentor the veterans and help them complete hands-on projects.

For example, program participant Alex Dawson, who worked as an aircraft electrician during his service for the U.S. Air Force, was matched with mentor Ed Kelly, the HVAC foreman at Wheaton College. Dawson remarked, “My job on active duty gave me extensive troubleshooting experience. The BOC program helped to close the gap between that and equipment specific to the field. My mentor showed me all the different building operating systems used at the college, and he invited me to attend a seminar on water heating with his staff. The BOC program has been influential in helping me pursue a new career as a stationary engineer.”

“We commend the veterans for the training and project work they completed to earn this nationally recognized certificate. These individuals have demonstrated service to our country and now possess knowledge and competency in energy efficient operation and maintenance of buildings, and subsequently they will be more competitive in the job market,” said Peter DiCianni, environmental committee chairman of the DuPage County Board. “We look forward to working with MEEA and the other partners to help the veterans pursue jobs in the growing energy efficiency green jobs market.”

For more information about BOC, mentoring a veteran, or hiring a certified BOC veteran, visit or contact Eric Roach at 312-784-7277 or

Publication date: 5/27/2013

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