Workforce Development to Enable Building Modernization

Mary MacPherson, formerly of ACEEE, and Camille Kadoch, RAP

Many consumers are pursuing electric heat pumps, water heaters and vehicles because of the wide variety of benefits that electrification provides, such as lower consumer cost, greater flexibility to manage electric loads and reduction in emissions. Holistic building modernization that combines energy efficiency upgrades, electrification, demand management and renewables provides even more consumer benefit and reduces impacts on the electric grid, helping to keep electricity costs in check.1 A lack of qualified workers has, however, created a bottleneck to delivering these technologies to consumers. This bottleneck poses a short-term obstacle to meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and clean energy goals and a longer-term challenge to replacing a retiring workforce, generating interest in energy sector jobs and meeting a growing demand for clean energy projects.

States can overcome these challenges by enacting policies that generate interest in building modernization jobs and help members of underrepresented populations join this field. This toolkit offers four policy strategies and legislative templates by which state policymakers can prepare a skilled and diverse building modernization workforce.

Challenges to Ensuring a Sufficient Workforce

The energy workforce challenges are well documented:

  • Significant energy worker retirements. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that as many as 500,000 energy industry workers would retire within five to 10 years, and the utility industry continues to grapple with concerns that a significant amount of experienced knowledge is leaving the industry.2, 3 A decline in workforce training programs since the 1980s has led to fewer workers being ready to move up to take their place.4 For example, a union in San Francisco noted that union members work 80% of their hours on energy efficiency projects, but 40% of those members were eligible for retirement in five years.5
  • Declining interest in energy sector jobs. There is a wide variety of jobs in the energy sector spanning all education levels. Yet a declining interest in and promotion of skilled trade jobs, combined with evolving notions about the quality and attractiveness (both real and perceived) of some energy sector jobs, means that there are fewer willing applicants. Moreover, federal funding for vocational high school programs has dropped 32% since 1985.6

Consequently, there is a bottleneck as growing demand for building modernization measures collides with an increasingly narrow pool of skilled workers. In 2019, about 85% of energy efficiency employers found it very or somewhat difficult to hire new employees, citing lack of technical skills, training or experience as the primary reason for hiring difficulty.7 Similarly, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships found several installer-related market barriers for heat pumps in the region, including the inability to find experienced contractors and installers and a lack of familiarity with the technology among the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) community.8

Opportunities for States

There’s abundant opportunity for states to support the training of energy efficiency and electrification workers.

Projections indicate exponential growth in energy efficiency and electrification jobs. The outlook for job growth in the energy efficiency and electrification sectors is bright. First, there are abundant opportunities to modernize existing buildings with energy efficiency and electrification upgrades. Most of the current U.S. building stock, ranging from single-family homes to skyscrapers, will still be in use in 2050. Increasing energy savings through improved insulation, better HVAC, digital controls and other energy efficiency — and electrification — technologies will both create jobs and save customers money.9 A 2020 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted 13% growth for HVAC technicians, which is 2.5 times the national growth average for the next decade.10 The energy efficiency sector already employs more than 2.1 million Americans and was projected to grow 3% per year before the pandemic.11 Many of these jobs will go to newer entrants to the job market.

New federal funding is available to support workforce development. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide at least $60 million to state and local energy efficiency workforce development programs.12 The funding is for training and education needs, including activities that address current workforce gaps. The law permits states to obligate funds for purposes such as preapprenticeships, apprenticeships and career opportunities for on-the-job training and vocational school support.13 The infrastructure legislation also includes millions of dollars for energy efficiency programs and weatherization programs, which will require a qualified workforce to deliver.14 The Inflation Reduction Act also includes billions of federal dollars for residential electrification projects, which will require a trained and ready workforce to deliver.

Wages in clean energy are generally higher than the national median. The U.S. Energy and Employment Report found that energy sector employees earn higher hourly wages compared with the national median and other sectors of the economy; this is true across all energy technology sectors and nearly all energy industry segments (see Figure 1).15 Mean hourly wages exceed national averages by 8% to 19%. Additionally, the Brookings Institution found that clean energy economy wages are also more equitable: Workers at the lower end of the income spectrum can earn $5 to $10 more per hour than workers in other low-paying or early career jobs.16 Continuous policy work is necessary to ensure that clean energy jobs are held to strong labor standards and offer competitive wages to workers displaced by the energy transition.17

Figure 1. Energy sector wages are higher than most

Source: National Association of State Energy Officials, Energy Futures Initiative and BW Research Partnership. (n.d.). Wages, Benefits, and Change

Strategies to Increase Opportunities for Workers, Employers and Society

States can pursue several workforce development strategies to address existing barriers, maximize public benefits and help workers realize the opportunity presented by clean energy jobs. Workforce development programs today need to focus on investing in training, upskillingupskilling To acquire more advanced skills through additional education and training. and reskillingreskilling Training employees on an entirely new set of skills to prepare them to take on a different role in the workplace. This typically occurs when workers’ previous tasks or responsibilities become unnecessary, often due to advances in technology. (Cornerstone Editors) by engaging younger workers, transitioning older and nontraditional workers, and providing access and support to registered preapprenticeship and apprenticeship work-based learning models.18 Some important strategies for workforce development include the following:

Raise interest among younger students. One obstacle to hiring is lack of interest in or awareness of the opportunity in the next generation of careers in the energy sector. In a survey of employers, MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research found that recruitment needs to start in middle and high school by allowing students to get field experience and experience in a trade at a younger age. For example, Xcel Energy recruits heavily for its internship program for both high school and college students.19 Additionally, there is need for more education in new technologies. Given the growing number of new technologies, demand has also increased for individuals to fill more technical computer- and data-focused roles.

Offer training and access opportunities for “new-collar workers.” Many occupations within the clean energy economy tend to have lower educational requirements, particularly in the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors, which include occupations like electricians, carpenters and plumbers. Roughly 50% of workers attain no more than a high school diploma yet earn higher wages than similarly educated peers in other industries.20 “New-collar workers” is a term that has been applied to individuals who develop the skills needed to work in jobs through nontraditional education paths.21 These workers gain skills through high school technical education, on-the-job training and apprenticeships, technical certification programs, community colleges and other programs that do not require a four-year degree.22 Modifying workforce development programs to enable new-collar entrants has the potential to expand access to needed training for energy sector jobs.

Increase access to energy efficiency and building decarbonization jobs among underrepresented populations and businesses. Recent data finds that 61% of the clean energy job holders across the United States are white non-Hispanic workers, with Black and Hispanic or Latino workers underrepresented as compared with the national average.23 Electricians are a major component of the clean energy workforce, yet only 2% of electricians are female and less than 7% are Black.24 Workforce development programs are an opportunity to equip underrepresented individuals — including women and people of color — with the hard and soft skills necessary for success in the building energy efficiency, electrification and modernization industries. These programs can also facilitate economic inclusion by preparing minority- and women-owned businesses to deliver ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs as utility trade allies.25

Remove barriers in existing workforce development programs. Current workforce development programs may have unintentional barriers that make the programs inaccessible to segments of the public. These barriers include requirements for certain educational attainment that may not be possible for some applicants. Focusing on new-collar pathways can address this issue. There are also barriers to individuals who have gone through the justice system. Almost half of unemployed males have criminal convictions, and one in three have an arrest on their record.26 Some programs require a driver’s license, which can act as a barrier for people of color and low-income applicants. Additionally, supportive wrap-around services, such as child care and transportation assistance (bus fare or car-sharing options), are critical to enable many individuals to participate in workforce development programs. Bringing people into the workforce without ready access to vehicles will require deeper investments in stipends and alternative transportation options, including support for individuals to get their driver’s license. Thoughtful attention to overcoming these barriers in existing programs can broaden participation, particularly among individuals from underrepresented populations.27

Provide skills-based hiring connections, workforce development and community support for communities affected by the energy transition. In 2019, nearly 1.7 million people worked in fossil fuel industries. Because these jobs are typically geographically concentrated in certain counties in West Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, North Dakota and West Virginia, fossil fuel jobs can account for 30% to 50% of jobs in a community.28 The federal infrastructure legislation recognizes the need to promote domestic job creation that draws on existing skilled workforces, particularly workers dislocated from manufacturing, coal mining or retired coal power plants. The funding also promotes reinvestment in communities experiencing high unemployment.29 Workers affected by power plant closures may possess training and certifications not easily reflected in a job market focused on traditional degrees. Creating networking hubs and job opportunities that focus on skills-based hiring can help these workers find new employment.30

Additionally, important policies for displaced workers — such as wage insurance,31 pension guarantees, phased shutdowns of sectors or specific plants through attrition, or strategic retrofits of existing fossil fuel infrastructure — provide support to these communities.32

Enable more earn-as-you-learn programs. On-the-job learning through registered apprenticeships33 and experiential learning is especially helpful in the clean energy sector given the large role of tacit knowledge and the abundance of positions not requiring an associate or bachelor’s degree.34 Preapprenticeship programs, apprenticeships and various other introductory training programs are available from a range of employers, community colleges and unions to introduce the work skills, environment and social behaviors necessary to succeed.35 Additionally, earn-as-you-learn programs provide training while participants earn a paycheck. This is critically important for people who cannot afford to take time off to earn a degree.

Important state strategies to improve job quality and social equity outcomes

State decision-makers creating or updating workforce policies and programs are increasingly concerned about creating high-quality jobs that provide good wages. The following strategies help ensure high-quality jobs and prevailing wages:

  • Incentivizing the use of registered joint apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs with state-funded projects or programs. Apprenticeship programs need to demonstrate that they are admitting and graduating workers who reflect local demographics.
  • Expanding Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” requirements to cover projects receiving state tax credits.36 States may also want to consider assisting small contract firms and those owned by people of color with the project and administrative costs of complying with the requirements, as these costs can become barriers to some contractors.
  • Requiring project labor agreements on all state-funded climate and infrastructure investments.
  • Requiring community benefits agreements to establish local hire and diversity targets on state-funded projects.37
  • Requiring labor peace agreements for supply chain and operation or maintenance phases of state-funded climate and infrastructure investments.38

State legislative action may be necessary to reframe or target existing programs to best meet the pressing needs and overcome barriers. The legislative options in this part of the toolkit highlight many opportunities to add or adopt registered preapprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, which can reach younger people and introduce them to trades options; programs to retrain fossil fuel industry workers; programs to equip underrepresented people of color and women with the skills necessary and connect them with jobs; and programs that address barriers due to limited education or criminal record.

State leadership and coordination is also necessary to take advantage of some of the federal funding that is available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Federal funding streams provide opportunity to significantly scale clean energy investments, but they are often challenging to implement.39 Federal, state and local coordination is needed to realize the greatest public benefit from available funding.

Opportunity to Incorporate Workforce Programs in Energy Transition Funds

Multiple states are taking steps to provide energy transition funds for workers and communities affected by retirements of fossil-fueled electric generating plants. Legislation in Colorado H.B. 19-131440 and Minnesota H.F. 6,41 for example, provides this funding. These states recognized that power plant retirements present challenges that are greater than individual communities and workers can manage on their own and that the state can play a key role in a successful transition.42 Consequently, both states took steps recommended by the Midwestern Governors Association to create a centralized state planning effort backed by dedicated staff and state resources to encourage coordination among state, local and other stakeholders to facilitate the multidisciplinary efforts that contribute to successful transitions.43

The Colorado bill creates an energy transition office and task force that are directed to create a plan to align and target local, state and federal resources and leverage additional resources to invest in communities and workers whose fossil fuel-related industries are subject to significant economic transition. Critically, both the Colorado and Minnesota bills require utilities to notify workers and the just transition office of facility retirements and to create a transition plan and timeline that provides certainty for workers. The just transition plan and office are to establish and implement programs to assist displaced workers and communities, provide for continuation of benefits for workers and explore alternate tax and economic development opportunities for communities affected by facility retirements. States can follow in Colorado and Minnesota’s footsteps and build upon these efforts by providing retraining to displaced workers who are interested in employment in energy efficiency, electrification or other low-carbon sectors that are rapidly expanding.

Workers affected by power plant closures may possess training and certifications not easily reflected in a job market focused on traditional degrees. Workforce networking programs, like those set forth in the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (see Option 2 below), could facilitate partnerships between employers and education providers to efficiently connect displaced workers to jobs through embracing hiring practices that prioritize skills and competencies. Networking programs that provide connections between employers and employees focused on skills-based hiring can provide workforce development opportunities in communities adversely affected power plant closures.44

Legislative Options

This part of the toolkit contains four legislative strategies by which states can advance equitable energy efficiency and electrification workforce development opportunities.

Recognizing the need for a workforce trained in emerging clean energy industries, the need to retrain workers from the fossil fuel industry, and the variety of education needs for highly impacted communities, some states are creating energy transition plans and expanding or refining workforce development programs. Some states do this by charging a task force with creating the plans; others have expanded and reframed existing programs; and still others charge existing state agencies to create plans and programs. A few states may have existing legislation focused on energy efficiency workforce development, which may be amended to include electrification.

Option 1 is based on H.P. 924 in Maine,45 subsequently signed into law,46 which establishes a clean energy jobs task force charged with creating both an energy strategy and jobs plan, focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency and electrification strategies. The Maine legislation also directed the task force to create a renewable energy plan for the state and offer rebates for certain technologies; we have omitted these provisions to focus on the clean jobs aspects. Option 1 provides for creation of a robust task force made up of diverse interests and experts and high-level guidance concerning the type of jobs strategy the legislature would like to see. This provision requires that the task force create the strategies and come back to the legislature with both completed strategies and suggested legislative language to enact the strategies. Optional additions include more detail on the type of energy strategies desired or on the type and scope of jobs plans, such as in Option 2.

As another example, New York state launched a Just Transition Working Group through S06599/A08429 to inform its Climate Action Council on workforce development and training on energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean energy technologies, with an emphasis on opportunities for women, veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals and others underrepresented in the clean energy workforce.47 Additionally, H5445/H0078 in Rhode Island set a goal for Rhode Island to be carbon neutral economywide by 2050, and it establishes a Climate Change Coordinating Council to submit a plan to the governor and General Assembly every five years to meet this goal and interim greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The plan must describe programs to train and retrain individual from populations underrepresented in the workforce, such as people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities and previously incarcerated individuals.48 

Option 1 Provision: Clean Energy Jobs Task Force

(a) Task force established [and shall be integrated in the [state] Department of Labor]. The Task Force for a [name], referred to in this part as “the task force,” is established to create a plan to advance job growth in [environmental sustainability, renewable energy, beneficial electrificationbeneficial electrification Electrification that saves customers money, enables better grid management and reduces negative environmental impacts. and economic growth] for the state.

(b) Task force membership. The task force consists of [number] members as follows:

(1) The [director of lead agency or department], or the director of a successor agency, who serves as chair; and

(2) [Number] members appointed by the [governor][Legislature] as follows:

(A) [Number] representative of the [public utilities commission];

(B) [Number] representative of the [low-income housing authority];

(C) [Number] member with expertise in climate science;

(D) [Number] member representing the interests of renewable energy producers;

(E) [Number] member under 21 years of age representing youth of the state;

(F) [Number] member representing the interests of labor;

(G) [Number] member representing the business community;

(H) [Number] member representing environmental justice communities;

(I) [Number] member representing rural communities; and

(J) [Number] member with workforce development experience.

(c) Meetings; compensation; staffing. The task force shall meet at times and places called by the chair. Members of the task force serve without compensation. The governor’s [relevant office], or its successor agency, shall provide staffing services to the task force within existing resources.

(d) Duties. The task force shall develop a plan to advance job growth in [environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, renewable energy and beneficial electrification] that will realize economic growth for the state. The plan must contain, but is not limited to, the following strategy and must include draft legislation necessary to implement the strategy:

(1) A high-quality job creation, retention and training strategy including:

(A) Major investments in upgrading, rebuilding and developing the state’s infrastructure, including energy efficiency and electrification upgrades;

(B) [Plans for existing energy infrastructure reuse and the upgrades needed to do so;]

(C) A comprehensive approach to encourage registered apprenticeship and training programs in rural and urban communities of the state for jobs that contribute to preserving, sustaining or enhancing environmental quality, commonly referred to as green jobs;

(D) Ensuring workers have a voice in these jobs through collective bargaining rights; and

(E) [Ensuring the strategy provides priority access to applicants who face barriers to employment, such as low educational attainment, prior involvement with the criminal legal system and language barriers; and applicants who are graduates of or currently enrolled in the foster care system].

(e) Report. No later than [date], the task force shall submit a report documenting the plan developed under subsection (d), including any necessary implementing legislation, to [state Legislature][the governor][relevant legislative committees].

(f) [Continuity. The task force shall be a resource for the Department of Labor and other agencies as the plan is implemented. The task force shall provide updates to the secretary of the Department of Labor on the plan annually, including any recommended adjustments to the strategy.]

This option is inspired by the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act,49 which was adopted by the Illinois Legislature and signed by the governor in September 2021. In a portion of that law referred to as the Energy Transition Act, the Legislature stated a public interest in ensuring “residents from communities disproportionately impacted by climate change, communities facing coal plant or coal mine closures, and economically disadvantaged communities and individuals experiencing barriers to employment have access to State programs and good jobs and career opportunities in growing sectors of the State economy.” Consequently, the act creates an energy transition fund for programs that help advance clean energy jobs, as well as for energy justice grants and energy transition community support; the act also includes guidance for the specific jobs programs to be funded. Of the programs listed in the act, only text for the “clean jobs workforce network program” is excerpted here; see the original legislation for descriptions of the other programs authorized by the act.

The act provided extensive detail on the types of programs and grants to be funded.50 The Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program included in Option 2 articulates program administration, process and networks; defines eligible applicants; defines the types of eligible clean energy jobs; sets requirements for a clean energy apprenticeship program and curriculum; and articulates a reporting process and robust stakeholder engagement. The program creates a network of educational institutions, workforce development organizations and employers to connect educators and support networks with employers in the clean energy industry. The act also charges this program to create a locally administered apprenticeship curriculum, based on input of stakeholders, that fills needed gaps in the clean energy industry. Eligibility is prioritized for applicants who face barriers to employment, such as low educational attainment, prior involvement with the criminal legal system and language barriers; applicants that are graduates of or currently enrolled in the foster care system; and displaced energy workers.

Option 2 Provision: Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program

(a) The [lead state agency] shall develop and, through regional administrators, administer the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program to create a network of [number] program delivery Hub Sites with program elements delivered by community-based organizations and their subcontractors geographically distributed across the state including at least one Hub Site located in or near each of the following areas [specific economically depressed areas in the state] or areas that are impacted by economic or environmental challenges.

(b) Eligible applicants

(1) Preference shall be given to applicants residing in the areas specified in subsection (a) who face barriers to employment, such as low educational attainment, prior involvement with the criminal legal system and language barriers; and applicants who are graduates of or currently enrolled in the foster care system.

(2) The remaining program placements shall be prioritized for: applicants who are displaced energy workers as defined in the Energy Community Reinvestment Act; persons who face barriers to employment, including low educational attainment, prior involvement with the criminal legal system and language barriers; and applicants who are graduates of or currently enrolled in the foster care system, regardless of the applicant’s area of residence.

(c) The Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs Network shall:

(1) Coordinate with [designated agency or positions] to:

(A) Increase participation in the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program and clean energy and related sector workforce and training opportunities;

(B) Coordinate recruitment, communications and ongoing engagement with potential employers, including, but not limited to, activities such as job matchmaking initiatives, hosting events such as job fairs and collaborating with other Hub Sites to identify and implement best practices for employer engagement; and

(C) Leverage community-based organizations, educational institutions and community-based and labor-based training providers to ensure program-eligible individuals across the state have dedicated and sustained support to enter and complete the career pipeline for clean energy and related sector jobs.

(2) Develop formal partnerships, including formal sector partnerships between community-based organizations and entities that provide clean energy jobs, including businesses, nonprofit organizations and worker-owned cooperatives, to ensure that program participants have priority access to employment training and hiring opportunities; and

(3) Implement the Clean Jobs Curriculum to provide programming, including, but not limited to, training, certification preparation, job readiness and skill development, including soft skills, math skills, technical skills, certification test preparation and other development needed, to program participants.

(d) Reporting

(1) The [lead state agency or department] shall require submission of quarterly reports, including program performance metrics by each Hub Site to the regional administrator of their program delivery area. Program performance metrics include, but are not limited to:

(A) Demographic data, including racial, gender, residency in eligible communities and geographic distribution data, on program trainees entering and graduating from the program;

(B) Demographic data, including racial, gender, residency in eligible communities and geographic distribution data, on program trainees who are placed in employment, including the percentages of trainees by race, gender and geographic categories in each individual job type or category and whether employment is union, nonunion or nonunion via temporary agency;

(C) Trainee job acquisition and retention statistics, including the duration of employment (start and end dates of hires) by race, gender and geography;

(D) Hourly wages, including hourly overtime pay rate, and benefits of trainees placed into employment by race, gender and geography;

(E) Percentage of jobs by race, gender and geography held by program trainees or graduates that are full-time equivalent positions, meaning that the position held is full-time, direct and permanent based on 2,080 hours worked per year (paid directly by the employer, whose activities, schedule and manner of work the employer controls, and receives pay and benefits in the same manner as permanent employees); and

(F) Qualitative data consisting of open-ended reporting on pertinent issues [and percentage change or improvement in data reflecting achievement of legislative goals],51 including, but not limited to, qualitative descriptions accompanying metrics or identifying key successes and challenges.

(2) Within three years after the effective date of this act, the [lead state agency] shall select an independent evaluator to review and prepare a report on the performance of the program and regional administrators.

(e) As used in this section, [“clean energy jobs”], subject to administrative rules, means jobs in [the solar energy, wind energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, solar thermal, geothermal, electric vehicle industries, electrified end uses in buildings, other renewable energy industries, industries achieving emissions reductions, and other related sectors, including related industries that manufacture, develop, build, maintain or provide ancillary services to renewable energy resources or energy efficiency or electrification products or services, including the manufacture and installation of healthier building materials that contain fewer hazardous chemicals]. Clean energy jobs include administrative, sales and other support functions within these industries and other related sector industries.

(f) Stakeholder process.

(1) The [lead state agency] shall convene a comprehensive stakeholder process that includes representatives from the [state board or department of education], the [state community college or technical schools board], the [state labor department], community-based organizations, workforce development providers, labor unions, building trades, educational institutions, residents of communities of color and low-income communities, residents of environmental justice communities, clean energy businesses, nonprofit organizations, worker-owned cooperatives, other groups that provide clean energy jobs opportunities, groups that provide construction and building trades job opportunities and other participants to identify the career pathways [including vocational careers] and training curriculum needed for participants to be skilled, work ready and able to enter clean energy jobs. The curriculum shall:

(A) Identify the core training curricular competency areas needed to prepare workers to enter clean energy and related sector jobs;

(B) Identify a set of required core cross-training competencies provided in each training area for clean energy jobs with the goal of enabling any trainee to receive a standard set of skills common to multiple training areas that would provide a foundation for pursuing a career composed of multiple clean energy job types;

(C) Include approaches to integrate broad occupational training to provide career entry into the general construction and building trades sector and any remedial education and work readiness support necessary to achieve educational and professional eligibility thresholds; and

(D) Identify on-the-job training formats, where relevant, and identify suggested trainer certification standards, where relevant.

(2) The [lead state agency] shall publish a report that includes the findings, recommendations and core curriculum identified by the stakeholder group and shall post a copy of the report on its public website. The [lead state agency] shall convene the process described to update and modify the recommended curriculum every [x] years to ensure the curriculum contents are current to the evolving clean energy industries, practices and technologies.

(3) Organizations that receive funding to provide training under the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, including, but not limited to, community-based and labor-based training providers, and educational institutions must use the core curriculum that is developed under this section.

Option 3 is based on Maryland H.B. 1209,52 which was signed into law in December 2021 and which provides grants for clean energy workforce development. Maryland had an existing clean energy workforce fund and legislation enabling apprenticeships. This bill expanded requirements for apprenticeship programs, funding and eligible clean energy jobs and applicants.

Clean energy jobs are rapidly evolving, and demand for employees often outstrips the pool of applicants. Many states are focusing on workforce development and apprenticeship programs to help fill the gap. This option focuses on preapprenticeship and apprenticeship jobs programs. It requires a curriculum based on the U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program.53 It also provides grants to apprenticeship sponsors; in the Maryland legislation, these grants are up to $150,000 for program proposal and planning expenses and $3,000 for each successfully completed apprenticeship. The grants help to defray the costs of training new employees, which may be daunting to small employers, and provide a reward for successful completion of the program. The program also helps to provide some of the on-the-job learning that is critical in some clean energy industries.

Option 3 Provision: Grants Supporting Clean Energy Apprenticeships

(a) The [cross-reference funding source] shall be used to provide grants to support workforce development programs that provide:

(1) Preapprenticeship jobs training;

(2) Youth apprenticeship jobs training; and

(3) Registered apprenticeship jobs training.

(b) A preapprenticeship jobs training program must:

(1) Be designed to prepare individuals to enter and succeed in an apprenticeship program registered by the [state apprenticeship approving body];

(2) Include:

(A) Training and curriculum based on national best practices that prepare individuals with the skills and competencies to enter one or more apprenticeship programs, registered by the state or U.S. Department of Labor, that prepare workers for careers in the clean energy industry;

(B) A documented strategy for increasing apprenticeship opportunities for unemployed and underemployed individuals, including:

(i) Recruitment strategies to bring these individuals into the preapprenticeship jobs training program, prioritizing individuals in highly impacted communities;

(ii) Educational and prevocational services to prepare program participants to meet the entry requirements of one or more registered apprenticeship programs;

(iii) Access to appropriate support services to enable program participants to maintain participation in the program; and

(iv) Mechanisms to assist program participants in identifying and applying to registered apprenticeship programs; and

(C) Rigorous performance and evaluation methods to ensure program effectiveness and improvement; and

(3) Have a documented partnership with at least one registered apprenticeship program.

(c) Eligible clean energy industry jobs for a preapprenticeship jobs training program include positions in:

(1) Renewable energy;

(2) Energy efficiency;

(3) End-use electrification, such as heat pumps, electrified water heating and electric vehicle infrastructure installation;

(4) Energy storage; and

(5) Resource conservation.

(d) This paragraph applies to youth apprenticeship jobs training programs and registered apprenticeship jobs training programs supported by the [state fund] under this subsection.

(1) An apprenticeship sponsor shall receive as a grant from the [state fund]:

(A) Up to [dollar amount] for a program proposal and planning expenses; and

(B) [Dollar amount] for each successfully completed apprenticeship.

(2) The youth apprenticeship jobs training programs and the registered apprenticeship jobs training programs:

(A) Shall comply with:

(i) All rules and regulations for the establishment of a registered apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship standard for sponsorship; and

(ii) [State apprenticeship and training program, or federal rules]; and

(B) Must prepare workers for careers in the renewable energy, energy efficiency, electrification, energy storage and resource conservation sectors of the clean energy industry.

(C) “Clean energy industry” means a group of employers and building and trade associations that are associated by their promotion of:

(i) Products and services that improve energy efficiency and conservation, and electrification of buildings and vehicles, including products and services provided by:

(I) Electricians;

(II) Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning installers;

(III) Plumbers;

(IV) Energy auditors;

(V) Carpenters;

(VI) Pile-driver operators;

(VII) Millwrights;

(VIII) Welders;

(IX) Insulation workers;

(X) Well drillers; and

(XI) Electric vehicle manufacturing, maintenance and infrastructure development; and

(ii) Renewable and clean energy resources.

(e) The [relevant state agency] shall use the [state fund] to invest in preapprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs to establish career paths in the clean energy industry as follows:

(1) [Dollar amount or percentage] for grants to preapprenticeship jobs training programs starting in fiscal year [date] until [all amounts are spent][date, and reassessment];

(2) [Dollar amount or percentage] for grants to youth apprenticeship jobs training programs and registered apprenticeship jobs training programs until [all amounts are spent][date, and reassessment];

(3) [Dollar amount or percentage] for the recruitment of individuals, including veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals, to the preapprenticeship jobs training programs and the registered apprenticeship jobs training programs until [all amounts are spent][date, and reassessment]; and

(4) [Dollar amount or percentage] for the recruitment of individuals from low-income and highly impacted communities to the preapprenticeship jobs training programs and the registered apprenticeship jobs training programs until [all amounts are spent][date, and reassessment].

Option 4 is based on bill S.9 in Massachusetts, which was signed into law in March 2021 and which sets a utility spending target for workforce development programs.54 The legislation also enacts several other changes to incorporate equity and electrification into program administrators energy efficiency offerings.55 The Massachusetts legislation directs electric and gas distribution companies and select municipal aggregators to annually transfer $12 million to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center for the clean energy equity workforce and market development program. The bill also directs the technology center to launch a heat pump market development program to deliver and fund training through early 2026 for heating oil dealers and others to expand markets for efficient heat pump technologies to heat space and water. S.9 codifies a definition of environmental justice communities and principles, and it establishes an environmental justice council to advise the secretary of energy and environmental affairs on policies to advance these principles.56

Option 4 Provision: Utility Funding Target for Clean Energy and Electrification Workforce Development

(a) There shall be within the [implementing agency or organization] a clean energy equity workforce and market development program to provide workforce training, educational and professional development, job placement, startup opportunities and grants promoting participation in the commonwealth’s energy efficiency, clean energy and clean heating and cooling industries to:

(1) Certified minority-owned and women-owned small business enterprises;

(2) Individuals residing within an environmental justice community; and

(3) Current and former workers from the fossil fuel industry.

(b) The program shall:

(1) Identify the employment potential of the energy efficiency and clean energy industries and the skills and training needed for workers in those fields;

(2) Maximize energy efficiency and clean energy employment opportunities for certified minority-owned and women-owned small business enterprises and individuals residing within an environmental justice community;

(3) Identify barriers to deployment of clean energy and energy storage resources to certified minority-owned and women-owned small business enterprises;

(4) Recommend near-term deployment targets consistent with the state’s clean energy and climate change requirements and awarding incentives to deploy said resources; and

(5) Make recommendations to the general court for policies to promote employment growth and access to jobs in the clean energy industry.

(c) The [public utilities commission] shall annually direct the electric and gas distribution companies and municipal aggregators with certified energy plans to jointly transfer funds collected to the [implementing agency or organization] for the purposes of implementing the clean energy equity workforce and market development program, provided that the electric and gas distribution companies and municipal aggregators with certified energy plans shall transfer not less than [minimum spending number] no later than [date] each year. Such transfer shall not reduce the amount expended on low-income programs pursuant to [statute with low-income energy efficiency spending target, if applicable].

(d) The [implementing agency or organization] shall administer a heat pump market development program to fund and offer training, which shall include, but not be limited to, [heating oil dealers or workers in other transitioning industries] for the purpose of expanding markets for space and water heating using efficient heat pump technology. The [implementing agency or organization] may draw upon the [energy efficiency or renewable energy public benefits fund], established in [statute section], for such purpose if sufficient funds are available.

Additional Resources

Environmental Entrepreneurs & E4TheFuture. (2021). Energy Efficiency Jobs in America.

MacPherson, M., & Ayala, R. (2020, October 29). Utilities Can Diversify Their Energy Efficiency Workforce: Here’s How. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. (2014). Alternative Education: Exploring Innovations in Learning.

U.S. Department of Energy. (2017). Transforming the Nation’s Electricity Sector: The Second Installment of the QER. Chapter V: Electricity workforce of the 21st century: Changing needs and new opportunities.–Electricity%20Workforce%20of%20the%2021st-Century–Changing%20Needs%20and%20New%20Opportunities.pdf

Wang, C., Mardell, S., Richardson, J., & Varadarajan, U. (2022). Ensuring an Inclusive Clean Energy Transition: A Recovery and Revitalization Framework for Coal Workers and Communities. RMI.

Explore Other Topics


  1. Duncan, J. (2020, April 14). Stronger together: Why efficiency with electrification catalyzes systems change. Institute for Market Transformation.
  2. Democratic staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. (2016, August). Building an energy workforce for the 21st century, p. 7.,next%205%20to%2010%20years
  3. Clark, K. (2022, June 22). How utility leaders are handling an aging workforce. Power Engineering.
  4. Kreisman, D., & Stange, K. (2019). Depth over breadth: The value of vocational education in U.S. high schoolsEducation Next, 19(4), 76-83.,federal%20funding%20for%20such%20programs.
  5. Foster, D., Nabahe, S., & Siu Hon Ng, B. (2020). Energy workforce development in the 21st century. MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  6. Kreisman & Stange, 2019.
  7. National Association of State Energy Officials & Energy Futures Initiative. (n.d.). 2020 U.S. energy and employment report.
  8. Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. (2017). Northeast/Mid-Atlantic air-source heat pump market strategies report — 2016 update.
  9. Environmental Entrepreneurs & E4TheFuture. (2021). Report: Energy efficiency remains energy industry’s largest workforce and best bet for fast, equitable, local job growth.
  10. Foster et al., 2020.
  11. Environmental Entrepreneurs & E4TheFuture, 2021.
  12. Henry, T. (n.d.). Infrastructure bill includes new training grants from Department of Energy. Whiteboard Advisors.,section%20authorizes%20%2410%2C000%2C000%20for%20FY22
  13. Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act summary: A road to stronger economic growth. (n.d.). Maria Cantwell: United States Senator for Washington.
  14. Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act summary, n.d.
  15. National Association of State Energy Officials, Energy Futures Initiative & BW Research Partnership. (n.d.). Wages, benefits, and change. Jobs in traditional fossil energy remain the highest-paid jobs in the energy sector.
  16. Muro, M., Tomer, A., Shivaram, R., & Kane, J. W. (2019). Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs. Brookings Institution. Strong policy is necessary to ensure that the industry continues to develop along a trajectory that will be appealing to new workers and include well-paying jobs and benefits.
  17. Frances Eanes, Maine Labor Climate Council, personal communication, June 6, 2022. See also Zabin, C., Auer, R., Cha, J. M., Collier, R., France, R., MacGillvary, J., Myers, H., Strecker, J., & Viscelli, S. (2020). Putting California on the high road: A jobs and climate action plan for 2030. Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley.
  18. Goger, A. (2020, December 9). Desegregating work and learning through “earn-and-learn” models. Brookings Institution.
  19. Foster et al., 2020.
  20. Muro et al., 2019.
  21. Bubenik, S. (2019, January 24). New-collar workers — who are they and how are they contributing to our labor shortage? Forbes.
  22. Interstate Renewable Energy Council. (n.d.). Green buildings career map.
  23. Environmental Entrepreneurs, Alliance to Save Energy, Energy Efficiency for All, American Association of Blacks in Energy, Black Owners of Solar Services & BW Research Partnership. (2021). Help wanted: Diversity in clean energy. Black workers represent about 8% of the clean energy labor force, compared with about 13% of the nation’s total workforce, and Hispanic or Latino workers represent nearly 17% of the clean energy workforce, slightly less than the 18% they represent in the overall national workforce. However, renewable energy employs the highest share of Hispanic or Latino workers in the U.S. energy sector.
  24. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, January 20). Labor force statistics from the current population survey [Table].
  25. Shoemaker, M., Ayala, R., & York, D. (2020). Expanding opportunity through energy efficiency jobs: Strategies to ensure a more resilient, diverse workforce. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. See the following reports for information on including members of underrepresented populations in workforce development programs and removing barriers in existing programs: Inclusive Economics. (2021). High-road workforce guide for city climate action.; Cha, J. M., Devlin, A., & Conroy, J. (n.d.). Winning on climate: Case studies of cities centering economic inclusion. Emerald Cities Collaborative.
  26. Pérez Ortega, R. (2022, February 18). “Staggering” study reveals nearly half of unemployed U.S. men have criminal convictions. Science.
  27. Anne McKibbin, Elevate, personal communication, July 15, 2022.
  28. Tomer, A., Kane, J. W., & George, C. (2021, February 23). How renewable energy jobs can uplift fossil fuel communities and remake climate politics. Brookings Institution.
  29. Tomer et al., 2021.
  30. Midwestern Governors Association. (2022). Midwestern Governors Association initiative: Growing the communities that have powered the Midwest.
  31. Wage insurance is a guaranteed bridge to retirement or a supplement of the wage difference between old fossil jobs and lower-paying renewable energy or energy efficiency jobs.
  32. Francis Eanes, Maine Labor Climate Council, personal communication, June 6, 2022.
  33. U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Registered apprenticeship program. ApprenticeshipUSA.
  34. Muro et al., 2019, p. 29.
  35. Foster et al., 2020.
  36. Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Davis-Bacon and related acts.
  37. Foster et al., 2020.
  38. Project labor agreements generally apply only to the construction phase of any given project. Labor peace agreements are a policy tool that require employer neutrality. Francis Eanes, Maine Labor Climate Council, personal communication, June 6, 2022.
  39. Kane, J., & Mills, J. (2022, February 23). Harnessing the infrastructure investment and jobs act to train the next generation of workers. Brookings Institution.
  40. Concerning a Just Transition from a Coal-based Electrical Energy Economy, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, H.B. 19-1314, 72nd Gen. Assemb., 2019 First Reg. Sess. (Colo. 2019). See also: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. (2020). Colorado just transition action plan.
  41. Omnibus commerce, climate, and energy finance bill, H.F. 6, 2021 Special Sess. (Minn. 2021).
  42. Midwestern Governors Association, 2022.
  43. Midwestern Governors Association, 2022.
  44. Midwestern Governors Association, 2022.
  45. An Act to Establish a Green New Deal for Maine, H.P. 924, Part B, 129th Cong., 2019 First Reg. Sess. (Me. 2019),
  46. Title 35-A: Public Utilities, Part 8: Energy Efficiency, ch. 97: Efficiency Maine Trust Act, §10129: Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator, 2021 Me. Laws.
  47. An Act to Amend the Environmental Conservation Law, the Public Service Law, the Public Authorities Law, the Labor Law and the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, A.B. A08429/ S06599, §75-0103, Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2019-2020).
  48. An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government — 2021 Act on Climate, S.B. 0078, Gen. Assemb., January Session (R.I. 2021).
  49. Energy Transition Act, Public Act 102-0662, 2021 Ill. Laws. See also: Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development. (n.d.). Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.
  50. Policymakers in each state will need to determine the level of detail necessary to achieve policy goals. Collaborative engagement among the branches of state government — including regulatory, legislative and executive — can illuminate the level of detail and deference needed, as well as appropriate implementation responsibility.
  51. Bracketed language was added so that data analysis is included in the reporting. This enables changes to program design elements if the data don’t show achievement of legislative goals.
  52. An Act Concerning Clean Energy Jobs — Workforce Development — Scope, ch. 409, H.B. 1029, 2020 Reg. Sess. (Md. 2020) (enacted).
  53. U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.
  54. An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, ch. 8, S.B. 9, 192nd Gen. Court (Mass. 2021) (enacted). To learn more about the environmental justice provisions in S.9, see sections 62J and 62L in the bill.
  55. Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. (n.d.). Policy fact sheet: S.9, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy.
  56. An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy.