White House announces $13.5 million investment to grow solar energy workforce

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As part of President Joe Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy has launched a program accelerate the clean energy transition through solar workforce training.

As part of the program, the DOE announced 12 projects, whose work will span more than 13 states, selected for negotiation to launch training partnerships that expand the solar energy workforce in underserved and underrepresented communities, as well as create career pathways with thousands of good-paying jobs.

The selectees include partners from industry, tribal organizations, unions, community colleges, and state and local governments. The $13.5 million program, including $10 million from Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, supports the administration’s goal of equitably boosting economic opportunities across America while achieving a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035.

“President Biden’s ‘Investing in America’ agenda is accelerating the clean energy transition, resulting in the creation of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and boosting our growing clean energy economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “That’s why DOE is working to jump-start solar energy careers, especially in underserved communities, developing the long-term structures needed to deliver these jobs over the next decade.”

Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda is aimed at growing the U.S. economy by rebuilding infrastructure, creating a manufacturing and innovation boom powered by good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, building a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make communities more resilient.

According to the 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar industry comprises more than 330,000 employees and added 17,200 new jobs in 2021 — an increase of 5.2%. The report also found that while the solar industry is more diverse than some other energy industries, the overall energy workforce lags in Hispanic (17%), Black (8%) and Indigenous worker (1%) representation. With solar power potentially contributing up to one-third of the U.S. electricity supply, there is a need for more equity and inclusivity in the industry.  

DOE expects that the industry will need to grow to between 500,000 and 1,500,000 workers by 2035 to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s decarbonization goals. These jobs should be accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership.

The Advancing Equity through Workforce Partnerships Funding Program selections announced today will directly address the need for diversity and inclusion. After two years of gathering information and engaging stakeholders, DOE designed this program to foster the development of workforce programs that facilitate the rapid deployment of solar energy technologies while growing and supporting an inclusive workforce.

The project selectees are:

  • Adaptive Construction Solutions (Houston, TX): This project will create a pre-apprenticeship program in Texas that will recruit, train, and retain a diverse workforce in construction trades needed by utility-scale solar energy projects. ​(Award: $1.1 million)
  • Amicus O&M Cooperative (Boulder, CO): This project will expand training and certification tracks for solar operations and maintenance professionals across the U.S. in partnership with the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals, and other strategic workforce development organizations, employers, and workers. ​(Award: $1.5 million) 
  • Cook County, Illinois (Chicago, IL): This project will establish durable partnerships in the Chicago area that benefit minority workers and small business owners and strengthen workforce training pipelines that address local solar industry demand and create quality jobs. ​(Award: $1.1 million)
  • Crater Lake Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Center (Central Point, OR): In partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (NECA/IBEW), this project will develop a new union-based electrician pre-apprenticeship course for high school students in underserved rural and tribal communities in Southern Oregon and Utah. (Award: $1.5 million)
  • Emerald Cities Collaborative (Seattle, WA): In partnership with union-led training centers, this project will create one of the first dedicated solar installer trainings and union-based electrical pre-apprenticeship programs in the state of Washington for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. (Award: $725,000) 
  • Kern Community College District (Bakersfield, CA): In partnership with IBEW, this project will provide solar installation career-track training and electrical apprenticeship readiness training with opportunities for union membership for participants from disadvantaged communities in the Central Valley of California. ​(Award: $1 million)
  • Power52 Foundation (Columbia, MD): This project will expand access to solar training and quality jobs with career pathways for individuals in disadvantaged communities by scaling a nationally recognized solar energy training program to new sites around Baltimore, Maryland. (Award: $1.4 million)
  • Red Cloud Renewable (Pine Ridge, SD): This project will utilize an apprenticeship readiness program that provides family-centric services, in-person training, and a mobile lab to place Native American women in careers in the solar workforce across the U.S. (Award: $1.5 million)
  • Solar Landscape (Asbury Park, NJ): This project will partner with community-based organizations, vocational training facilities, and corporate partners to provide quality training programs in commercial solar installation in New Mexico, Maryland, Colorado, and other states with growing community solar markets. ​(Award: $850,000)
  • Solar One (New York, NY): This project will strengthen solar curriculum in pre-apprenticeship, community college, and high school education programs, create advancement pathways for entry-level workers and develop resources to increase minority- and women-owned business enterprise participation in New York City and Newark, NJ. ​(Award: $750,000)
  • University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA): This project will create the Louisiana Solar Corps, a statewide solar workforce training and apprenticeship program that will establish eight new degree programs at five community colleges and four universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. ​(Award: $1 million)
  • Worksystems (Portland, OR): In partnership with NECA/IBEW, this project will create training and placement resources for diverse jobseekers to enter quality jobs in solar installation and related occupations, including union electrical careers across the Portland metro region. ​(Award: $1 million)

Read more about the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office and Solar Workforce Development efforts.

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