In states with a low population growth rate and a high rate of retiring citizens, there may be a need for targeted workforce incentives to fill gaps in key industry clusters, as well as a need for a dynamic and technically-skilled workforce. Policy makers can help clear pathways for young workers to pursue careers in advanced energy and fill these gaps. To accomplish this goal, a state could create curricula enhancements for advanced energies in the main credentialed programs in universities, apprenticeship programs, and community colleges.
Some states have taken the initiative to provide energy education at the pre-college and college levels and already have a strong base of relevant education and training programs available. These states could enhance their current workforce training programs rather than establishing completely new programs. Weaving advanced energy education into traditional pre-employment curriculums enhances opportunities for key industry sectors, while also offering more opportunities for career advancement than other shorter-term, focused programs like wind technician and solar installer.
States could fund these enhancements by developing a Renewable Energy Education Strategic Fund (REESF), which would cover costs associated with gaps in renewable energy education and training. The REESF could support education-to-work programs and/or add renewable energy modules to pre-existing programs, for example. The Fund could be managed through the state-level workforce development board. Washington established a similar fund in 2008 called the “High Skills, High Wage Strategic Fund,” which utilized about $625,000 in Workforce Investment Act dollars to address the workforce needs of key industry clusters such as marine engineering and renewable energy planning. Washington’s Fund helped create jobs and training opportunities in these critical industries. State legislators could draw upon Washington’s success when developing an REESF. Overall, these programs could incentivize public-private partnerships between schools and key industry stakeholders, allowing companies to hire from a pool of highly qualified candidates.