peopleA centerpiece of the stimulus package is an effort to put 3 and 4 million people back to work over the next two years.

The site includes a map of the U.S. with the estimated jobs expected under the Recovery Act superimposed over each state. California leads with 396,000 anticipated jobs, while North Dakota and Vermont expect the least job growth with 8,000 each.

I’v been curious to better understand who is leading the charge on training the workforce for the wave of new green jobs we are expecting.  Are companies taking the lead?  Federal agencies or state governments?  It seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.  If you deploy training programs without partnering with business, you will have a trained workforce, but no jobs.  And if you create the jobs, but neglect workforce development, critical shortage of specialists in growing professions could occur.

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, the major barriers to a more rapid adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency in America are insufficient skills and training.

Sources of funding for green jobs training

According to Green for All one of the leading non profits working to promote green jobs and build the green economy, the Recovery Act invests nearly $4 billion in training and employment services and a good portion of that — $500 million — will go specifically to “research, labor exchange and job training projects to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and
renewable energy industries.”

Green for All reports that, “The challenge of finding qualified workers is particularly pronounced in the energy-efficiency and renewable-energy industries, as they are new fields requiring new skills. That is why the Recovery Act specifically targets these industries with the $500 million Energy Efficiency and Renewable Worker Training (EERWT) Program. The available funds can be used for research, labor exchange, and job training projects that get workers ready for entering “green collar” industries.”

Chapter 7 of the Green Guide to the 2009 Stimulus Package highlights a few of the green jobs training programs funded by the stimulus package:

  • AmeriCorps State and National Recovery Act Assistance–$201 million:  Current AmeriCorps grantees are eligible for the additional funding. Among the jobs that AmeriCorps personnel may do are job training and counseling activities and constructing and rehabilitation of housing and other buildings.
  • Department of Labor Employment and Family Services Job Corps Centers–$250 million: Up to 15% of these funds can be allocated to training programs for careers in renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental protection.
  • Housing and Urban Development Tribal Governments–$40 million: This money is set aside to train tribal members in skills associated with the building trades such as pipefitting and plumbing, as well as training in environmental protection and renewable energy.
  • Workforce Investment Act (WIA)–$3.95 billion: Of the $3.95 billion, $2.95 billion is provided for formula grants to the States for training and employment services with no specific “green” requirements. Of the remaining $1 billion, $750 million has been set aside for a program of competitive grants for worker training and placement in high growth and emerging industry sectors such as green jobs and health care.

California and Massachusetts take the lead

Massachusetts just awarded $1 million new green job training grants to develop vocational programs in the cleantech sector through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The grant winners will work with at least two clean energy companies each in developing curriculum and instruction materials. While specific to each institution, programs will train high school, college, low-income individuals, workers in the trade industries and clean energy employers to perform tasks in energy efficiency retrofitting, solar photovoltaic and heating system installation, wind energy, green building and clean energy policy fields.

California’s Green Corps is investing at least $10 million in federal economic stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and an additional $10 million from public-private partnerships to develop a 20-month pilot program reaching at least 1,000 of California’s at-risk young adults. All programs will be public-private partnerships that include green job training, a stipend, an educational requirement and community service.

Green for All’s New Capital Access Program

Green For All’s new Capital Access Program (CAP) focuses on creating, sustaining and scaling green jobs in the U.S, with an emphasis on building the capacity of green businesses and non-profits. Their new report, A Business Guide to the Recovery, is a resource to help businesses identify opportunities to leverage Recovery Act investments to bring the green economy to scale.

They will be hosting a webinar on September 9, 2009 at 4pm EDT to highlight emerging opportunities to leverage stimulus dollars and to offer examples of best practices from across the country.

According to the new report, “ARRA doesn’t direct any funds specifically to federal apprenticeship programs. Still, states are trying to find ways to create economic incentives for employers to provide more on-the-job training.”

I agree with the take home message from the new Green for All report–business must take a leadership role and partner with non profits to pursue innovative strategies to lift America out of this recession.

Perhaps clean tech investors should encourage start-ups to integrate workforce development partnerships into their business plans, so when businesses are ready to rapidly scale up, skilled workers are ready to go.


Deborah Fleischer, founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies identify key environmental issues, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and communicate their successes and challenges.

Since majoring in environmental studies in 1983, Deborah’s career has focused on environmental issues in both the public and private sectors. She is an expert in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact.

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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