Creating Opportunities for the People Powering the Clean Energy Future
Background – the Human Element of Energy
Clean energy has an intrinsic human element: people use energy in day-to-day life. People are also increasingly impacted by climate change, and while technological innovations are a key part of moving toward decarbonization, the people needed to design, manufacture, sell, install, operate, and maintain clean energy systems are a vital component for meeting energy goals.
Workforce development, which goes beyond training to include career awareness, job preparedness, and employment-focused initiatives, is the resource to support that critical human element of a clean energy transition. Recruiting and training the next wave of clean energy workers is essential for achieving aggressive efficiency, renewable energy, and decarbonization goals. Doing so in a way that maximizes access to quality jobs across all communities needs to be integrated into workforce development programs to address the challenge at scale.
NYSERDA’s Workforce Development Programs
The mission of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is to advance clean energy innovation and investments to combat climate change, improve the health, resiliency, and prosperity of New Yorkers and deliver benefits equitably to all.
Since 2016, NYSERDA has partnered with TRC to implement the authority’s statewide Workforce Development and Training Programs, with the goal of ensuring that New York’s energy transformation is driven by a strong, diverse, and inclusive workforce. The programs include tools for introducing new workers into the clean energy field, through climate justice fellowships, career pathways training programs, clean energy internships, and other initiatives.
The NYSERDA and TRC program team administer programs to address these challenges through two main approaches:
- Career Pathways programs that provide comprehensive skills training and job-preparedness programs for new workers
- Work-Based Learning programs that provide funding for professional experiences for individuals gaining experience in the clean energy field.
In developing these programs, the NYSERDA and TRC team regularly engages with clean energy businesses and industry groups to understand current and future workforce needs and understand the needs of local markets. The team also engages with community groups representing diverse populations, to better provide the support needed for individuals of diverse backgrounds to enter and advance in the clean energy industry.
From Early Career Training to Long Term Retention
NYSERDA and TRC designed the Workforce Development programs with an understanding that a “one size fits all” approach to recruiting, training, and retention is not applicable to candidates from different economic and cultural backgrounds. To successfully prepare new workers for clean energy jobs, particularly those individuals from priority populations and those with barriers to employment, simply providing technical training is not enough.
To account for this difference, the NYSERDA programs’ Career Pathways workforce development approach incorporates elements such as supportive services, professional skills training, job placement assistance and mentoring into training programs to support participants’ transition from education and training into specific occupations in an industry sector.
NYSERDA provides funding to support Clean Energy Internships, On-The-Job Training, and Climate Justice Fellowships to facilitate the placement of new workers, students, recent graduates, transitioning and displaced fossil fuel workers, veterans and individuals from priority populations considering career opportunities in clean energy into paid internships, fellowships, and full-time jobs across the state. The programs provide individuals and businesses with the tools to connect as well as funding to reimburse participating businesses for a percentage of the workers’ wages.
By design, projects funded through NYSERDA’s workforce development and training programs can be combined to maximize funding and outcomes for participants. Businesses, after learning that their interns are a good fit for their organization, can hire those interns through the On-The-Job Training program or the Climate Justice Fellowship program for longer-term engagement and receive additional funding to do so. Climate Justice Fellows can also be hired as full-time employees through the On-The-Job Training program at the conclusion of their fellowship to continue their environmental justice and clean energy work.
To date, the NYSERDA Workforce Development programs have provided funding for over 1,500 clean energy interns across New York state and resulted in over 1,200 new hires in clean energy jobs with an average subsidy of $8,500 per worker.
Key to program success is deliberate program planning and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. For a utility or public entity looking to substantially grow clean energy workforce development by scaling up current programming, it is essential to recognize and engage with the broad range of partners who can contribute to these efforts.
Since 2016, TRC has served as the lead Implementation Contractor for NYSERDA’s $120 million statewide Workforce Development and Training Programs. As Implementation Contractor, we provide NYSERDA a range of services including program operations, technical advising, reporting support, stakeholder engagement, market research, and more. The TRC program team has successfully led efforts for workforce strategy development in priority clean technology areas including energy efficiency, energy storage, offshore wind, and clean heating and cooling.
For more information, visit: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/all-programs/clean-energy-workforce-development
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority