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Jeffrey Connor-Naylor   ·  

Empowering the Clean Energy Workforce

Last week, National Skills Coalition and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships brought together more than 60 business leaders, skills training experts, national associations, philanthropic partners, and federal policymakers from the White House in a conversation about current state efforts to advance state and federal clean energy skills training policy.  

This group of thought leaders endeavors to play a key role in pushing for meaningful policy change (such as investing in industry-sector partnerships and quality apprenticeships skills training strategies) to support successful clean energy projects and provide economic opportunities for workers in a growing industry.   

It’s important for public agencies, companies, community colleges, and workforce development stakeholders to come together to envision skills training and registered apprenticeship policies that will not only maximize infrastructure investments and expand benefits, but also create new pathways to good jobs for underrepresented groups including, black and brown workers, women, young people, veterans and re-entry citizens” said Victoria Johnson, Global Equity Director at HDR Engineering, Inc– an employee-owned, professional services firm specializing in architecture, engineering, environmental and construction services. Johnson is also a BLU Executive Committee Member.   

Recent analysis commissioned by NSC,
BlueGreen Alliance and conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute shows that the combined investments of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CHIPS and Science act will create millions of new jobs – but does so without investing enough in education and training to equip workers with these skills. 

In the clean energy sector
tax credits passed through the Inflation Reduction Act provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow our clean energy infrastructure. But Congress did not provide new apprenticeship resources to meet the credit’s requirements, and policymakers did not provide significant, dedicated funding for skills training to support this growth. Reaching the clean energy goals of federal investments will require expanding the talent pipeline to bring new workers into the field, especially women, workers of color, and young people 

Fortunately, as projects begin across the country, states can prioritize skills training investments to support business growth and economic opportunity for workers.The day-long policy discussion focused on identifying state policies that are already working for business leaders – particularly those policies that build and diversify the registered apprenticeship pipeline and those that help local businesses hire apprentices to take advantage of the IRA tax credits. Participants also focused on how industry-sector partnerships between employers, training providers and community colleges, community-based organizations, and labor organizations are critical to meeting the needs of employers and workers alike. These models can inspire legislation in other states and further investment at the federal level. 

Following the policy discussion, business leaders met with Congressional and committee staff. It was an important moment for policymakers to hear from the clean energy sector about their skills training challenges and successes. Participants shared their experiences and insights about what federal action is needed to meet the workforce needs of employers. "Bipartisan policies that advance workforce development on-the-job training programs are critical to ensuring that disadvantaged citizens have equitable opportunities for sustainable, good paying green jobs and careers that align with federal initiatives to address the climate crisis, said Tina White, CEO of TINA’s Green Energy Solutions – a company that sells and installs electric vehicle charging stations.   

Lindsay Blummer is President and CEO of WRTP/Big Step in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership has programs and services that focus on green construction and clean energy. “Convenings focused on the next iteration of the clean energy economy like this one are imperative for understanding and lifting the voices of all stakeholders,” Blummer says.“We have the opportunity to build a robust and diverse workforce to meet the demands of high road employers and our nations need for clean energy. These discussions must continue to include workforce best practices, worker voice and employer engagement as this is an opportunity to create a responsive, diverse, safe, and effective sector for generations. 

BLU plans to use the momentum from this event to build support for federal and state investments in pre-apprenticeships and industry sector partnerships – particularly bringing the business voice to state-level advocacy efforts. 

For photos, check our flickr page.