The Biden administration is investing $40.8 million into new centers to train students and workers for the rapidly growing clean energy economy.
The energy transition depends on a skilled workforce, one that can manufacture EVs and batteries, install electric heat pumps and pinpoint the ways that buildings and businesses can slash energy waste and reduce emissions. The coming job opportunities are massive. Taken together, three of President Joe Biden’s marquee pieces of legislation — the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and 2022 CHIPS and Science Act — could create up to 2.9 million new jobs annually, according to a September report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. But right now, there aren’t enough people trained to fill these emerging roles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
To help prepare American workers for clean energy careers and meet some of that need, the Biden administration announced last week that with funds from the infrastructure law, it would help create 27 new centers to train people in energy efficiency, decarbonization and clean energy manufacturing. The centers, which build in part on an existing efficiency-workforce program, aim to train at least 3,000 individuals over the course of the three-year funding period.
“We are thrilled to cultivate the next generation of clean energy professionals that will modernize buildings in their communities with the latest clean energy technology,” said Henry McKoy, director of the DOE Office of State and Community Energy Programs, in a statement. “Not only will these students and workers help revolutionize the future of green buildings, but they will help us all achieve our energy goals and fight climate change.”
The training centers are spread out across the U.S., at community colleges, technical colleges, trade schools, training institutes and universities from Oceanside, California to South Charleston, West Virginia.
Seventeen institutions have been selected as Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), expanding the current network of 37 facilities, to train individuals for jobs that can streamline manufacturing operations. The training centers, which each have their own tailored programs, will prepare students and workers for a variety of career paths focused on industrial energy efficiency, including roles like energy auditors, building-energy managers, insulators, industrial electricians, EV and lithium-battery technicians, and heating, air conditioning and refrigeration professionals (who are fired up about heat pumps).
First established in the 1970s, IACs provide students hands-on training. One of the key ways these centers do that is by bringing students and instructors to the factory floor to provide free energy audits to small and medium-sized manufacturers, helping them cut energy use and costs.
These assessments are valuable because the industrial sector has a huge energy appetite. It accounts for about a quarter of U.S. energy consumption and 30 percent of its CO2 emissions, the DOE shared with Canary Media.