Six words altered my life
How a CAP client began a career that brought him to the IN-CAA team
After spending all of 2006 unemployed, I knew I needed to go back to work. With 2007 quickly approaching, I felt the new year would bring better luck. I was hired as a maintenance man for a local business, but it didn’t last long; I was let go only a few months later.
At this point, going home and looking my wife and young daughters in the face was humiliating, knowing I couldn’t provide them the life they needed, much less what they deserved. As the money I had earned ran out, my beautiful and amazing wife said to me, “We need to get help.” I refused due to my own selfish pride.
Upon seeing her cry, my heart broke. Putting my love for my family before my own self-pity, I proceeded to schedule an appointment with our local CAP agency.
We gathered our documentation and headed out to meet Becky from the CAP agency. Much to our surprise, we qualified for Energy Assistance and Weatherization, but it’s what she said after that that changed the course of our lives.
She asked, “What do you like to do?”
My reply was, “I’ll do anything.”
She repeated: “What do you like to do?” with an emphasis on “like.” I said I like to work with my hands. She asked that I pick up an application on the way out.
I asked, “An application for what?”
Becky said, “For employment with our weatherization crews.”
I was hired as shell crew member and began learning how to perform blower door tests, insulate attics, and insulate walls and foundations. And so my journey began.
I found this type of working — to help others — very rewarding, and I saw the benefits of weatherizatoin on my own home. We saved 62 percent on our gas bill. My local CAP had an incentive program in place that rewarded its employees with a 2-percent raise for each certification you achieved.
Within the first year, I was able to attain Building Performance Institute (BPI) certifications, including Building Analysis, Building Technician and Heating Technician. Other certifications followed, such as Indiana LEAD Risk assessor, LEAD Inspector, Universal Technician for refrigeration and RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting), among others. This helped me advance to an energy auditor until the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) began.
At that time, I submitted a proposal to Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) to become a contracted technical monitor. I interviewed for that position, then held that position for two and a half years, monitoring homes across the state. When I took that position, I knew it was only for a limited time until the ARRA ended. During the final months of State monitoring, I put the word out I would be looking for a full time position when ARRA ended. Much to my surprise, I was able to secure the weatherization manager position at my local CAP — where I started as a client and also where I had started my weatherization career.
The job required long hours and was very high-stress. Due to that, I felt I needed to find a different job, so I left the CAP to work for a local electric utility company. There, I learned how to do energy audits on multi-million dollar homes, solar production, electric metering and overall electric consumption.
The only thing missing while at the utility company was that weatherization was in my blood, and I missed it! After five years with the utility company, I was very fortunate to have been hired by IN-CAA as a weatherization technical specialist. As a trainer, I have much to learn, but I am very excited about what the future holds.
I owe so much to Becky at the CAP for truly caring about a mid-20’s unemployed kid with no skills. She exhibited what a CAP agency should be, and the CAP promoted a culture of advancement and excellence, which contributed to my success.
I am blessed by all the people that have helped, supported and believed in me to get to this position at IN-CAA. I am not sure that, without the support from my amazing my wife who put up with me over the last 20 years, I would be writing this today!
I pledge to do my best to pay it forward to the next generation of weatherization workers.
- Justin Ackeret