Montana State University

MSU receives $354,000 to help train weatherization workers across U.S.

June 2, 2010 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer speaks in Bozeman Wednesday afternoon during an MSU press conference for the new Weatherization Television Network. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- Montana State University received a $354,000 grant Wednesday to help develop a television network that trains weatherization workers across the nation.

Celebrating with cake, politicians and partners, Michael P. Vogel, director of the Montana Weatherization Training Center at MSU and professor with MSU Extension, said people who weatherize homes and businesses these days do more than caulk cracks and install weather stripping. Weatherization is an exacting profession that involves science, theory and a variety of skills. If done properly, it saves energy and money, and makes homes more comfortable. It makes the occupants safe and healthy.

"Today's it's a profession," Vogel said. "It's technical. There's diagnostic work."

The Montana Weatherization Training Center, located along the frontage road east of Bozeman, will use the partnership grant from the National Community Action Foundation and ExxonMobil to expand training for weatherization workers across the United States, Vogel said. The expansion specifically comes in the form of a high-quality television show available over the Internet.

The show, called WxTV, is produced at the Montana Weatherization Training Center, but incorporates footage and experts from all over the country, Vogel said. Snippets from recent episodes were combined for Wednesday's event, revealing a program in the vein of Bob Vila's home improvement show and "Home Improvement," the television comedy with Tim "The Toolman" Taylor. Music suitable for a spy movie played while heating systems trainer Mike Campbell checked a furnace. Host, writer and instructional designer Ben Cichowski appeared to climb out of a tool box during a segment called "Ben's Tool Box."

"We try to have a lot of fun with it," said Cichowski who heard his photo may appear on the cover of the Home Energy magazine.

The Montana Weatherization Training Center has produced six shows so far, but the grant will allow it to produce a total of 36 episodes, Vogel said. After a dozen episodes, the center will conduct an aggressive analysis, looking at a variety of factors including viewers, length, quality and integration into existing training.

Some of the WxTV episodes are aimed at managers, and others at contractors and work crews, Vogel said. Some of the shows are highly technical and others are designed to help trainers.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester were among those who spoke at the Wednesday afternoon event. Other speakers were Doug Steele, vice provost and director of MSU Extension; and representatives of the National Community Action Foundation, ExxonMobil and the Human Resource Development Council.

Tester said the new grant is a triple winner for Montana. It will help create jobs, save energy and money and help educate people.

"Weatherization means less dollars on your energy bill and more money in your billfold," Tester said.

Several speakers said it was only fitting that MSU Extension heads up the weatherization center. Schweitzer said Extension has 100 years experience in communicating the latest information about technology. What better tool, he said, than using MSU Extension to provide training and spread the word about weatherization.

"It's just as important as teaching new farm techniques 100 years ago to immigrants who came to Montana," Schweitzer said.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu