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Many young students who will graduate in the spring are already actively looking for jobs. Others, who will graduate after that, are starting to give the matter some serious thought. For all of them, there is some really good news. Some types of jobs will be ready and waiting for them. And they are not just good jobs, some are really good jobs. And they are not just available now, they will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.
Another nice aspect of this is that the jobs we are talking about provide a way for young people to earn good pay while they join the fight against climate change. These jobs are in renewable energy and related fields. We need solar designers and installers, wind turbine installers and technicians, electricians, heat pump specialists, and other workers in clean energy. Young people can earn good pay while they save the planet for the future — their own and their children’s.
Several years ago, I came across two pieces of news that fit together to create a fascinating picture. One was that more than half of the wind turbine technicians in Massachusetts had been working on wind turbines for less than one year. The other was that the median pay for wind turbine technicians in that state was upwards of $50,000 per year. Those two facts together provide the interesting fact that some Massachusetts wind turbine technicians, who had recently been hired, were earning more than $50,000 per year. At that time, the federal government was not pushing renewable energy, and today it is.
Truth be told, renewable energy is not just growing in the United States, but worldwide. In fact, the U.S. is playing catch-up with the rest of the world. In late September, we came across the very interesting news that Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said hope was growing that we would limit temperature increases to 1.5°C. He said this was because of the “staggering” growth of renewable energy, according to an article published by The Guardian (https://bit.ly/3ta9qAp).
We have known that renewable energy would be replacing fossil fuels for a long time. This was known decades ago, because we were starting to see a drop in oil production, and we knew peak oil was coming. Questions of pollution also bothered people, and then climate change became a concern.
The jobs issue has been increasingly important through all of this. For example, there was an article at CleanTechnica, “Want to Electrify Everything? Train More Electricians – Quickly” (https://bit.ly/Electrify_all). In that article, the point is made that in the next ten years huge numbers of technicians must be hired, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since companies are already facing difficulties hiring new employees, that means a lot of training. And for the future, there will be even greater growth in jobs relating to renewable energy.
There have been a couple of items in the news that address the issue of training in the Northeast recently. One is about training in New York City. The other is from Vermont and New Hampshire. We will take a quick look at both.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), with direct involvement of a list of other organizations, is running the NYCHA Clean Energy Academy, a two-year initiative aimed at training 100 NYCHA residents in high-demand clean energy careers. The program has some interesting aspects that we can report. The students must be residents of the NYCHA public housing, so it aids disadvantaged people. Interestingly, potential employers are directly active in the program, along with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the City University of New York (CUNY).
The NYCHA Clean Energy Academy has a value of the organization which is more than training students. It is designed to serve as a model for other educational programs that can help meet the need for trained potential employees for American clean energy companies. It has been in recent news because it graduated its first class of 24 students on August 24.
The training in Vermont and New Hampshire is not organized the way the NYCHA Clean Energy Academy was, but the programs in the New England states are turning out well-educated students. Vermont must, by law, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. While New Hampshire has no similar law, various municipalities in the state have produced their own goals. Both states can benefit from Inflation Reduction Act funding from the federal government, and both have long-term needs for trainees.
The need for training results from the accelerating changeover to clean energy is not just to replace use of fossil fuels for electricity, but also to replace fuels of all kinds for all sorts of applications. A switch from fuel-burning vehicles to electric vehicles is one example. Another important one is the switch from oil or gas for heat, to heat pumps.
Training programs for some green jobs are being run in Vermont. Some of them are specifically designed to even the playing field for some people who are often left out. Because women are not represented in the trades that need training support, programs have been started to address their needs. One program is the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center in Hartford, Vermont.
In New Hampshire, at least one business has introduced a program of its own. ReVision Energy, to ensure availability of trained employees, developed a program to train them in-house, and that program is recognized by the state.
As pressure grows to find new employees, opportunities for training are growing. For those interested, it is worthwhile to look at the new opportunities. It is interesting that climate change, which many people fear, provides its own basis for employment.
Renewable energy jobs are growing for everyone. Here, a woman works as a battery technician. (Courtesy of Enel North America)