Opinion: DE&I at Work in Energy

Carla Walker-Miller
Founder and CEO, Walker-Miller Energy Services

 

When I founded Walker-Miller Energy Services, I was determined to weave diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of our operations, long before DE&I were corporate buzz words.

Today, nearly twenty-three years later, I am both honored and humbled by the progress we have made, and impatient with how much more there is to do. With over two hundred team members across the United States, our corporate workforce represents the diversity of communities we serve. In an industry where Black women are underrepresented, our senior leadership team is comprised of majority Black women and women of color, and we are one of few energy industry companies led by a Black woman.  As a certified B Corp, we are one of less than 8000 companies in the world certified as a force for good. We are a recognized go-to subject matter expert for energy equity. With ISO 27001 and SOC2 Type 2 accreditations, our commitments to cybersecurity and quality are clear.

Having intentionally recruited a team that reflects the rich diversity of this country, we design inclusive energy efficiency programs, train inclusive workforces, develop outreach strategies, and provide innovative research and development, successfully engaging communities who have historically been underrepresented as both practitioners and participants in energy efficiency. We act as a bridge between the traditional energy industry and clean energy equity as this country transitions from the traditional utility to a new low carbon reality. Our efforts help decrease energy burdens on families, drive equitable access to clean energy careers, invite diverse businesses into the clean energy economy, and serve the needs of asset limited income constrained communities with compassion. At Walker-Miller, we don’t just serve the community; we are the community.

One such example of the true impact of our work is our partnership with DTE Energy in the newly launched Energy Efficiency Academy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, energy jobs in the United States continue to grow faster than overall employment in the total domestic economy. Energy efficiency is the fastest growing segment of the energy industry. The Academy intentionally recruits legacy Detroiters to be new entrants in the rapidly growing clean energy economy. These students receive a marketable credential and placement for well-paying careers. Armed with a BPI Building Professional Analyst certification, certified Detroiters are positioned to be instrumental in serving Detroit communities by helping to make local homes more energy efficient, decreasing the energy burdens, and creating safer and healthier home environments.

Detroit continues to have a labor participation rate of around 62%. It is up to local entrepreneurs and business leaders to drive an equitable and inclusive vision that fights climate change and grows the clean energy industry. That vision must include effective onramps to a thriving clean energy ecosystem that pays livable wages to those who have traditionally been left behind. DTE Energy Efficiency Academy is a direct response to the growing demand for energy efficient home repairs and retrofits in Detroit, and a necessity in building a thriving local workforce that will benefit the community for years to come. We are creating jobs for Detroiters and building a talent pipeline for a Michigan industry on the rise. When this partnership is scaled, Detroit residents will be leaders in the growing clean energy economy, and recipients of all its important benefits.

According to the Home Builders Institute, 2.2M additional skilled trade hires nationwide are needed now through 2024 to help keep up with labor demand, mitigate weakened housing supply and improve affordability. In Detroit, nearly 40,000 owner- and renter- occupied households suffer from inadequate housing conditions, according to the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Community Study (DMACS).

Key benefits of the Energy Efficiency Academy include paid training for participants, and both classroom training and field training – working in Detroit homes to implement energy-saving upgrades and installs. Participants earn Building Analyst and Healthy Home Evaluator certifications through the Building Performance Institute (BPI), as well as professional guidance and connections to recruitment networks for entry-level clean energy jobs with competitive starting wages. Career pathways in electrical, HVAC, insulation, and home performance skilled trades will be accessible for participants who complete the program.

Workforce development as a means of economic empowerment will live up to its full potential only when programs are centered in equity. Together, with partners such as DTE Energy, Walker-Miller is leading that charge. We eagerly look forward to expanding our efforts in the new year.

 

Carla Walker-Miller is the Founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services (Walker-Miller), a values-driven company that changes lives through energy. Known as a visionary who leads with both empathy and tenacity, Carla is a tireless advocate for the representation of Black people and people of color, women, and historically excluded communities. Led by her belief that the inclusion of all voices elevates business, drives sustainable policies, and creates equitable opportunities for all, she is a highly sought-after speaker on issues relating to entrepreneurship, diversity, equity and inclusion, the clean energy economy, workforce development, utility affordability and sustainability. Carla received her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Tennessee State University. She resides in Detroit, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Oak Grove AME Church.

 

ABOUT WALKER-MILLER ENERGY SERVICES

Walker-Miller Energy Services (Walker-Miller) is one of the largest African American and woman owned clean energy companies in the United States. Walker-Miller’s commitment to Empower People and Enrich Communities is the bedrock of a unique, people-centered culture that values all people and normalizes diversity, equity, and inclusion as a strength. A Certified B Corporation, Walker-Miller is a trusted partner with deep roots in the energy industry, providing thought leadership around Energy Efficiency as Equitable Economic Development; Advanced Energy Products & Services; Equitable Mobility Consulting & Installation; and Medium and High Voltage Equipment Sales to utilities, municipalities, businesses, and communities to drive the benefits of clean energy to all.

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