Center for American Progress

Creating a Skilled Workforce to Build a Clean-Energy Smart Grid
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Creating a Skilled Workforce to Build a Clean-Energy Smart Grid

The need for a well-trained, highly skilled workforce is a critical constraint in implementing a national clean-energy smart grid.

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The need for a well-trained, highly skilled workforce is a critical constraint in implementing a national clean-energy smart grid. The skills shortage in the power sector is real, and it is widely recognized as a growing concern within the industry. The utility sector faces the demographics of a “graying workforce,” which in many parts of the country means that the average energy sector worker is in his or her early 50s.

One clear option for federal jobs policy would be to build on existing best practices to rapidly increase the clean-energy workforce. Public/private workforce training partnerships with community-based organizations also should be expanded. Any new national program of increased workforce investment should specifically build on the strong precedent established in the Green Jobs Act, which was funded in the recent recovery bill at $500 million.

To ensure that these workforce development efforts bear fruit, there are several important labor provisions that can be applied to federally supported contracting as we build out a national grid. Clear criteria are extremely helpful in ensuring the integrity of the labor market, the contractors that bid on this work, and the quality of the jobs they create. Standards can be employed in contracts to ensure that public investments create lasting public value, quality economic development, and good wages and benefits. These measures can include requirements for:

  • Qualified apprenticeship programs with a record of compliance with apprenticeship-hiring provisions to create sustained long-term job creation
  • Joint labor-management partnerships to develop workers’ skills
  • Access to health and retirement benefits to provide a secure middle class
  • Employer-based training, including on-the-job training and skill upgrading
    to create a climate of lifelong learning

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