New York Launches Innovative Clean Energy Workforce Development Effort

On October 15, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released the new 2018 New York Clean Energy Industry Report. There was a lot of good news for New Yorkers.

The report found that clean energy companies in New York employed more than 151,000 workers in 2017, an increase of 5,600 from 2016. The state’s clean energy employers expect to add more than 8,000 additional workers in 2018.

As in previous years, the energy efficiency sector is far and away the largest employer of clean energy workers in New York with more than 117,000 people (77%) employed throughout the state. New York also has healthy renewable energy electricity generation workforce of 22,000+ workers (15%) and additional jobs spread throughout the alternative vehicle, grid modernization, storage, and renewable fuels sectors. 

At the same time that Governor Cuomo released the results of the 2018 jobs report, he also announced the availability of $27.5 million in new funding for workforce development and training initiatives “to help prepare New Yorkers for the clean energy industry’s growing job opportunities.” 

In a press release, Cuomo said, “By investing in our clean energy workforce, we are supporting the industry’s growing demands while creating jobs throughout the state utilizing clean energy technologies that will reduce emissions and protect our environment. Our nation-leading commitment to fighting climate change is also an economic driver that is creating good-paying jobs all across the state.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will lead the new workforce development hiring and training incentives “to assist clean energy businesses with recruiting and training new employees, upskilling existing workers, and establishing a talent pipeline. “Priority populations,” including low-income individuals, veterans, Native Americans, disabled workers, displaced power plant workers and the formerly incarcerated, will receive some preferences and be eligible for additional incentives.

The new clean energy workforce funding will support three initiatives, including:

$7 million for Energy Efficiency and Clean Technology Training:

Training providers - including but not limited to unions, colleges and universities, and technical high schools - who seek to develop and deliver training, provide hands-on experience and job placement assistance to ensure that new and existing workers have the cleantech skills businesses need can apply for funding to support those efforts.

$10 million for On-the-Job Training:

Eligible energy efficiency and cleantech businesses throughout New York's supply chain can apply for funding aimed at helping hire and provide on-the-job training for new workers.

$10.5 million Clean Energy Internship Program:

Energy efficiency and clean technology businesses can apply for reimbursement funding for a significant portion of an intern's wages if the employer offers paid internship opportunities to college students or 18- to 24-year-olds in technical training programs.

At the recent annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officers (NASEO) in Detroit, I had an opportunity to share the stage with Pat Stanton from E4TheFuture and the Faces of EE campaign, for a conversation about clean energy workforce development efforts. Most of the inquiries from state energy officers were about model programs that might be worthy of replication in other states.

I was pleased to offer up the outstanding workforce efforts from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center as a great example that other states could learn from. The MassCEC program includes a best-in-the-nation, award winning paid internship program with hundreds of alumni graduates, targeted programs for high school students, women and other priority audiences, job and resume posting services for employers and career-seekers, a continually-updated online education and training directory, and much more. 

I’m glad to start recommending NYSERDA’s new program of workforce initiatives as well. The three interlocking programs seem particularly well designed to help employers and training providers to work together in ways that often elude the workforce development system. Kudos to the NYSERDA team and their partners at New York’s Department of Labor, the SUNY system, and throughout the employer community on these thoughtful program design and funding decisions.

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin is Principal of Green Economy and Co-Chair of the Clean Energy Council's Workforce Development Group.