Jobs in advanced energy require highly-skilled employees or specialized training. Individuals seeking employment and firms in need of trained workers must therefore pay to improve skill sets. Investing personal or company funds for workforce development can be a barrier to upgrading skills. However, a state could turn this barrier into an opportunity by incentivizing investment in solar and wind workforce development through specialized tax credits for employing and training qualified workers.
A state could look to Oklahoma’s successful Aerospace Engineer Workforce Tax Credit as a potential model for establishing an advanced energy tax credit. The Aerospace Engineer Workforce Tax Credit was created in 2011 to attract and retain high-skilled workers for Oklahoma’s aerospace industry. The tax credit is multifaceted: it includes an employer income tax credit at 10 percent of paid compensation for employees, an employer tax credit for tuition reimbursement, and an employee tax credit worth a maximum of $5,000 per year for 5 years. Qualified employees for Oklahoma’s tax credit are limited to undergraduate or graduate degree holders. Local business leaders and policy makers have credited this policy with helping attract hundreds of jobs and increasing Oklahoma’s tax base.
A state legislature could create a tax credit to include modest incentives for employers who employ qualified workers and reimbursements for employers who offer specialized training to their workers. The tax credit for employees could equal a small percentage of a new employee’s salary. Training reimbursement tax credits could be limited to programs that provide workers with an industry-recognized credential, degree, or certificate to ensure that the funds are targeted at increasing skills that are relevant for advanced energy.