Among the attendees were Rebecca Evans, Director of Sustainability for the City of Ithaca; Hilary Swartwood, Sustainability Planner for the Town of Ithaca; and a number of Cornell Cooperative Extension staff, including CCE Tompkins Interim Executive Director Meg Cole.


to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

309 North Aurora Street | Ithaca, NY 14850 |

Tompkins Workforce Development Connects to Climate Change

About 25 individuals connected with Ithaca and Tompkins-area sustainability and workforce development gathered at TC3 Extension on the Ithaca Commons on November 3 to celebrate a milestone in the region’s climate efforts.

They gathered for a graduation ceremony for a cohort of students completing the Energy Warriors program, an environmental literacy program run by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Tompkins County. Four individuals ranging in age from their mid-20s to their mid-50s completed this program and earned their certificates from CCE Tompkins.

Also in attendance were elected officials who have made jobs and green energy a priority: Tompkins County Legislators Rich John, Anne Koreman, and Greg Mezey, as well as representatives from local organizations that work with the program and/or hire graduates from it, including OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources), Historic Ithaca, and TST BOCES.

“Our trainees do go through a 10-modular course that prepares them to understand environmental issues… understanding what is climate justice, understanding what is environmental justice,” said Aloja Airewele of CCE Tompkins, who leads the program. “That's why they're energy warriors. They are people who are at the forefront of moving us into the kind of energy sources that will be healthy.

The program is aimed at individuals facing barriers to employment and those who want to transition their careers to the field of sustainability. The Energy Warriors program is designed to help students with barriers they may face, currently and in the future.

The Energy Warriors program connects its students with local employers and nonprofits that assist with finding employment. Staff from other local organizations like OAR, Historic Ithaca, and TST BOCES also attended and spoke at the event.

The program is also closely connected to BlocPower, the City of Ithaca’s electrification partner, through a separate program that offers trainees hands-on experience. In the recently launched Cozy Basements! program, two recent graduates from the Energy Warriors program have been joined by two graduates of a previous cohort to perform weatherization work in residents’ homes.

Trainees learn how to assess homes for areas that could be improved in terms of energy use and then focus on insulating and air-sealing the rim joists, commonly uninsulated areas that allow significant amounts of cold air to leak in in the winter.

The program provides paid, hands-on experience for trainees, led by experienced BlocPower supervisors. All the materials are paid for, so participating homeowners get free upgrades along with valuable information about their homes’ performance. Preference is given to lower- and middle-income homeowners.

- Aaron Fernando, Ithaca Times,11/30/23