The Best Little Internship in Massachusetts

March 2015
by Paul Eldrenkamp

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (Mass CEC) is a ratepayer-funded public agency charged with promoting the clean energy sector in Massachusetts. One of its objectives is to promote “workforce training in clean energy technology at the commonwealth’s public institutions of higher education.” To that end, it has created an invaluable internship program for students enrolled at colleges and universities in MA and for MA residents enrolled in out-of-state institutions.

As of this writing, the program has fall and spring internship programs that are ten weeks, 200 hours, and reimbursed at $2400, and a summer program that is ten weeks, 400 hours, and reimbursed at $4800.

The program website lists a range of participating companies a prospective intern can apply to. Equally valuable, a qualified student can reach out to a prospective employer in the clean energy sector who’s not on the list and say, “Hey—I’d like to work for you this term or this summer, and I come with funding.” Provided the employer meets the requirements and follows through on the simple registration process, a match is made and an opportunity created. Reciprocally, a qualified company can reach out to a particular student who may not know about the program and say, “Would you like to work for us as a paid intern?”

I’ve been involved in all those scenarios. Our first Mass CEC intern came to us in the spring of 2013, told us about the program (which I have never heard of), and said he’d like to work for us for the summer under its auspices. It took less than an hour to complete the paperwork, and we were good to go. Our intern spent the summer helping us set up a sophisticated system for tracking pre- and post-project energy usage of the homes we work on.  He got us over some pretty substantial start-up hurdles, and if not for his work, we may have given up.

Building on that success, I reached out to the son of some friends, a recent college graduate who was uncertain about what direction to go next. He spent the spring of 2014 researching and calculation the embodied energy of a sampling of our retrofit projects. Again, without his time and effort we might have abandoned that project altogether, but in the end were able to gain invaluable information about the energy return on investment of the retrofits. We have continued the research and will be presenting our results at the upcoming Building Energy 15 conference sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA).

Finally, both my daughters were able to gain important work experience this past summer through Mass CEC internships. One, an architecture student, was able to work with Placetailor, an innovative design/build firm, and the other did research for a leading consulting company, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP), in their Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification group.

In sum, the Mass CEC internship is a great program that embodies the initiative that has made Massachusetts a national leader in the clean energy sector.  If you know of a college student who's looking for opportunities to earn some money, gain some work experience, learn a lot, and contribute to the development of clean energy in our state, it’s well worth checking out. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.