The City and County of Denver HA Overcomes Resource Scarcity and Trains Workforce through New Partnerships

The Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (DHA) joined the Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) in late 2013, committing to reducing energy use intensity by 20 percent across its portfolio of nearly 4,000 units by 2023. When designing its BBC energy plan, DHA hoped to increasingly purchase energy production from renewable sources, create green jobs, establish financial sustainability, and create opportunity for long-term ownership and operation of energy-efficient systems. One component of DHA’s strategy involved undertaking an ambitious solar installation project. Read more about the results in DHA’s published Showcase Project.

To further support its BBC commitment, DHA joined the SEED pilot program in 2014. SEED, which stands for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Energy, and Economic Development, is a cross-agency effort to prepare public housing residents for current and future technical jobs by increasing energy literacy, providing learning opportunities, and connecting residents to training opportunities to better pursue careers in the space. The pilot extended to six Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). SEED is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

DHA provides SEED programming in the Sun Valley Eco-District (SVED), one of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods on the west side of Denver. SVED is comprised of 100 acres that are adjacent to the Central Business District and several education and community amenities. The SEED program’s structure has served as a vehicle to foster new relationships and expand existing partnerships with local organizations, which has increased DHA’s capacity to educate residents on the benefits of reducing energy use. Some of these educational partnerships include US2020, a national effort to provide STEM mentors, and the National Center for Women in Technology. Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) and the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED) assist in both implementing energy-efficiency improvements and providing green jobs training for DHA residents. Xcel Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) partner with DHA on modeling energy efficiency solutions in the SVED, providing opportunities for growth.

The goal of DHA’s SEED program is to craft sustainable education and workforce training programs for DHA community residents and other Denver low-income residents by leveraging local expertise and resources. DHA’s goal includes 50,000 hours of STEM training dedicated to PHA residents and area low-income residents through local partner commitments including mentoring, after-school programs, certificate completions, employment, and training. As a result of the SEED program, DHA’s partnership extends beyond energy and into education and employment as well.

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  • Process

    DHA committed to SEED in 2014. The program is organized around three pillars: energy literacy, STEM education, and job-driven skills training. PHAs have significant freedom to integrate these pillars into new and existing programs to reach their goals. Some of DHA’s key SEED efforts are listed below, categorized by pillar:

    Energy Literacy

    DHA coordinates online and in-person energy literacy outreach for its residents including webinars, videos, workshops, and informational materials. In addition, HUD, DOE, and the ED will educate public housing residents about measures they can take to reduce energy consumption.

    Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) has partnered with DHA to increase the energy and water efficiency of SVED properties by installing water-efficient toilets and shower heads. Young people who live at DHA properties are recruited to join the Youth Corps and are paid to attend training and then work in the neighborhood.

    STEM Education

    As part of SEED, DHA has partnered with several local institutions to provide new STEM learning opportunities for its youth. For example, through the US2020 program, DHA, Fairview Elementary, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and CityYear (a local education non-profit) have teamed up to provide STEM afterschool events to elementary school students using museum staff as mentors. The Museum of Nature and Science and the Children’s Museum of Denver have provided free admittance and STEM programming for SVED community residents. The Museum of Nature and Science and the Museum of Natural History came on-site and worked with 50 youth after school in hands-on projects building cars. The National Center for Women in Technology hosted summer coding camps for girls to get them interested in STEM. Finally, DHA has partnered with Ink Monster (graphic design and printing) and Youth Employment Academy to provide internships for youth.  

    DHA also participates in HUD’s Connect Home program, which offers a platform for community leaders, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private industry to join together and produce locally-tailored solutions to bring low-cost broadband access, digital devices, and digital literacy trainings to eight low-income communities serving five family developments, including SVED. DHA uses both SEED and its Connect Home program to provide various STEM educational offerings. DHA will be expanding Connect Home to an additional public housing development in 2017.

    Job-Driven Skills Training

    DHA began its SEED job training efforts by using data from the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED) to identify the primary employers within SVED. DHA used the employment data to tailor its resident training opportunities to high-growth industries within the District. For example, SVED plans to increase the use of renewable technologies in the neighborhood. In response, DHA has focused its SEED workforce programs on training residents to provide ongoing operations and maintenance for new PV systems. OED has also provided funding for a place-based employment program in SVED that has started to train residents in the green construction industry for jobs anticipated to be available in the neighborhood in the next 18-24 months. In 2016, 34 SVED residents enrolled in employment readiness activities in the neighborhood.

    Notably, DHA’s relationships with Xcel Energy and NREL ensure that SVED is fertile ground for the development of future energy efficiency jobs. Xcel Energy is DHA’s partner on the installation of solar PV systems, as well as a pilot program on solar power underground battery storage; NREL also works with DHA and the City of Denver on modeling energy solutions for SVED.

    DHA also focused on connecting public housing residents to jobs that already existed in the neighborhood, specifically in the energy and construction field. As part of SEED, DHA has emphasized hiring programs sponsored by general contractors, solar and other energy, and construction-related companies. Finally, SEED programming helped launch the Light Industrial Jobs Academy, where participants train 48-60 hours per week and are offered training toward several national certifications that are specifically geared toward jobs available within the neighborhood. Any future build-out of housing or Eco-District projects will prioritize offering job opportunities to those living and training in SVED.

  • Outreach

    DHA’s SEED program outreach has included meeting with SVED residents and local leaders in business and education, in conjunction with the Eco-District development. During these meetings, DHA has educated community leaders on the SEED program, introduced the logo and mission, and advertised upcoming programming and incentives.

  • Outcomes

    DHA reports outcomes on a quarterly basis in a report to HUD to demonstrate their progress toward fulfilling SEED objectives and leveraging SEED-funded programs to encourage green workforce development. The outcomes are organized around the three pillars of SEED. Below are some results from the most recent quarterly report:

      Energy Literacy

      • New Pilot Program for PV Battery Storage is under negotiation.

      STEM Education

      • 780 residents participated in SEED STEM learning and activities.
      • 3 Museum of Nature & Science Observational Tours for resident youth; 26 of the youth completed the auxiliary lab program.
      • 20 industry recognized certificates earned.
      • 30 students received scholarships.
      • 4 new partnerships created.

      Job-Driven Skills Training

      • 34 SVED residents participated in the Sun Valley Employment Program.
      • 25 SVED residents completed Academies to Work training in 2016.
      • 9 participants became employed full time.

    • Measuring Success

      SEED organizes its success metrics around three pillars: energy literacy, STEM education, and workforce development. On a quarterly basis, SEED grantees report their progress on metrics that demonstrate progress in one of the three broader pillars. DHA also submits quarterly utility cost savings from energy conservation measures at its SEED sites, which is then benchmarked to show cost savings that occur over the course of the program.

      A sampling of the metrics includes:

      • Number of participants/attendees in SEED Energy Literacy activities, programs, and events
      • Number of new STEM internship opportunities created by SEED
      • Number of direct vacant full-time, permanent jobs filled

      In addition to demonstrating the various successes of the SEED program, quarterly reporting is helpful in allowing DHA to assess and improve its programs. In the next five years, DHA will continue to focus on green job creation and forming new partnerships to aid its SEED efforts.

    The Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (DHA) joined the SEED pilot program in 2014 to prepare public housing residents for technical jobs by increasing energy literacy, providing learning opportunities, and connecting residents to training so they may pursue energy careers.


    Public Housing Authority


    Scarce resources for education and job opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)


    A holistic approach to develop the Sun Valley Eco-District, concentrate energy efficiency, and connect residents to job training and STEM education


    Invested in Sun Valley Eco-District to create a unique opportunity to train and educate Denver Housing Authority youth and adults