According to the US Energy & Employment Jobs Report (USEER), the energy sector was one of the country’s fastest growing job markets before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
From 2015 to 1019, the annual growth rate for energy jobs was 3% — compared to 1.5% in the general economy. The USEER found that in 2020, energy employment decreased by 10%. While the decline was rather stark, there are also clear signs pointing to a rebound in the sector. At the pandemic’s peak in mid-2020, the energy sector had lost 1.4 million jobs. However, by the end of the year, 520,000 of those jobs had already returned.
USEER also found that continued energy investments prevented a decline in employment in several areas including: wind generation (increased by 2,000 jobs); battery storage (increased by 800 jobs); hybrid electric vehicles (increased by 6,000 jobs) and electric vehicles (increased by 6,000 jobs).
The energy industry’s workforce needs continue to grow as clean energy technologies develop and become more ubiquitous around the country. From wind and solar farms to battery storage and electrical vehicles, the sectors moving toward a renewable future all require a highly trained workforce. Across the country, energy providers, local governments and institutions of higher education are partnering to create new training programs that can keep up with demand.
Clean Fuel Training in California
In April, the California Energy Commission awarded Cerritos College in Norwalk a $1.5 million grant to develop clean fuel training programs for high schools in underserved communities and regions impacted by poor air quality. The grant is part of the California Energy Commission’s initiative to grow clean transportation. Since its inception, the College’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Career Pilot Programs have funded 28 high schools, served approximately 1,800 students each year, and trained 36 high school and community college faculty members for the new electric vehicle curriculum. The additional grant will allow the College to expand its pilot programs to more high schools, and include training for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Louisiana Powers Up Clean Energy Workforce
In Louisiana, River Parishes Community College (RPCC) was awarded a $1.5 million Delta Regional Authority grant by the US Department of Labor to support RPCC’s new Process Equipment Trainer (PET) Plant, a full-sized working production unit under construction at RPCC’s Gonzales campus where students can safely learn on a fully functioning plant. In addition, Project P.O.W.E.R, Preparing Our Workforce for Energy Renewal, will provide cutting edge training programs to prepare the region and states workforce for high-wage jobs in the hydrogen, solar, and wind energy sectors.
The investment from the Delta Regional Authority will allow innovative and collaborative workforce training for individuals to obtain the necessary skills as the region seeks to advance renewable and clean energy investments. Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) and Associated Builders & Contractors, Pelican and New Orleans Bayou Chapters (ABC) cosponsored the grant application.
“Delivering real-time and relevant workforce training opportunities to citizens in rural communities is a priority for our colleges. This DRA Grant will provide access for students from rural communities in the River Parishes Region which will help prepare them for good-paying family sustainable careers in Renewable Energy sectors. The partnership with ABC and GNO, Inc. will also strengthen the college’s ability to provide a holistic experience for students. I am excited to see the results the grant’s funding will have on the region’s workforce, but most importantly the impact it will have on the lives of our students and communities,” said Louisiana Community and Technical College President Dr. Monty Sullivan.
Brooklyn Home Base for New OSW Training
As offshore wind (OSW) energy grows along the East Coast, so too does the need for qualified, highly skilled workers. In October, Kingsborough Community College’s Maritime Technology program was awarded $1.5 million in capital funding by the New York City Council to become a certified OSW basic safety training facility. KCC is expected to receive another $1.5 million in the state’s next fiscal budget, bringing the total to $3 million as New York State allocates matching funds for capital appropriates provided by the city to City of New York community colleges.
Many OSW companies mandate Global Wind Organization (GWO)-certified baseline safety training for their employees. The awarded funding will establish KCC, Brooklyn’s only community college, as the first institution in New York State to be a GWO certified training provider. Currently, KCC offers four of the five needed trainings of GWO.
KCC President Dr. Claudia V. Schrader said the College is grateful for the funds. “Our location makes us uniquely positioned to be an integral partner in the OSW sector, and the funding will enable us to serve more under and unemployed students preparing for careers within the OSW industry.”
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.