The clean economy workforce in the U.S. and proposals to make it more inclusive

brookingsclean-energy-jobs_wages Figure2-finalAdvancing inclusion through clean energy jobs  is a report  released  by the Brookings Institution in April 2019,  with a goal to determine “ the degree to which the clean energy economy provides labor market opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups, with a particular focus on equity”.  It examines a range of occupations, not just the traditionally-identified “green jobs”,  identifying approximately 320 unique occupations in three major industrial sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management.  The report includes detailed discussion of its methodology and data sources, and emphasizes the size of the clean energy economy and its potential to make an impact on the equity of the U.S. labour market.

Some highlights about the “nature” and “ quality” of clean energy economy jobs:

  • Workers in clean energy earn higher and more equitable wages when compared to all workers nationally. Mean hourly wages exceed national averages by 8 to 19 percent.
  • Roughly 50 percent of workers in the clean energy economy have a high school diploma yet earn higher wages than similarly-educated peers in other industries – for example, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters.
  • Some occupations within the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors require greater scientific knowledge and technical skills than the average American job.
  • The clean energy economy workforce is older, dominated by male workers, and lacks racial diversity when compared to all occupations nationally. Fewer than 20 percent of workers in the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors are women, while black workers fill less than ten percent of these sector’s jobs.

In the accompanying press release , first author Mark Muro states: “Clean energy occupations are varied, accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree, and good paying, but they are not yet as inclusive as they should be. To deliver on the sectors’ full promise for economic inclusion, more work needs to be done in front-line communities to ensure under-represented communities and women are more widely included.”  The report concludes with  proposals directed at state and local policy makers, education and training sector leaders, and community organizations.  Broadly, the policy proposals include: “modernizing and emphasizing energy science curricula, improving the alignment of education and training offerings, and reaching underrepresented workers and students.”

Women and minorities still at a disadvantage in U.S. solar industry

solar industry 2019 diversity infographicThe U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019  was released by The Solar Foundation ,  in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association on May 6, reflecting  a growing  industry awareness of the need to promote inclusion. The 2019 study is based on survey responses from 377 employers and 398 employees in the winter of 2018, and reports on  job satisfaction, career paths and progression, and wages.

Some highlights: 

  • Among the senior executives reported in the survey, 88% are white and 80% are men.
  • Three of the top five recruitment methods rely on professional and personal networks – putting minority applicants at a disadvantage to be hired  (Only 28% of Hispanic , Latino, and African American  respondents reported that they found their jobs through a referral or by word of mouth, compared to 44% of white respondents).
  • There is a 26% gender wage gap across all position levels. 37% of men earn in the range of $31 to $74 per hour, compared to only 28% of women.  The median wage reported for men was $29.19, and for women it was only $21.62.

The full report is available here (registration required). This is the second Diversity Report, but the first, in 2017, is no longer available online. An accompanying  Best Practices Guide  is a brief guide aimed at HR managers to encourage diversity and inclusion programs.  A summary  of the report appears in Think Progress .

Other reports which confirm the need for more diversity in the solar industry: 

Solar Empowers Some  (February 2019)  focused on the state of diversity and inclusion in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs  (April 2019)  by the Brookings Institution goes beyond just the solar industry to include all clean energy and energy efficiency occupations. It reports that fewer than 20 percent of workers are women, and less than 10 percent are black, confirming that the clean energy economy workforce is older, dominated by male workers, and lacks racial diversity compared to all occupations nationally.  This report, importantly, also documents skills and educational requirements, and is written in the context of labour market issues for a transition to a clean economy.

We have little comparable research in Canada. As reported in the WCR  previously,  Bipasha Baruah at Western University in London researches the gender issue in the renewable energy industry, and in 2016 presented a report,  Creating and Optimizing Employment Opportunities for Women in the Clean Energy Sector in Canada, at Imagining Canada’s Future, an SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Symposium at the University of Calgary.

How to increase women`s representation in green industries

women in trainingTwo  new reports were released in May in the Smart Prosperity Clean Economy Working Paper Series.  Identifying Promising Policies and Practices for Promoting Gender Equity in Global Green Employment by Bipasha Baruah, synthesizes and analyses existing literature  on women’s  employment in manufacturing, construction and transportation –  “brown” sectors which are important in the transition to a green economy. From the paper: “The literature points to four overarching barriers that exist for women who seek to enter and remain in these fields: lack of information and awareness about employment in these sectors, gender bias and gender stereotyping, masculinist work culture and working conditions, and violence against women. … Most policies designed to address women’s underrepresentation in these fields tend to be reactive responses that do not engage adequately with broader societal structures and institutions that produce and maintain inequality. Improving lighting in construction sites in order to prevent sexual assaults against women and requiring women to work in pairs instead of alone are classic examples of reactive policies that end up reinforcing social hierarchies rather than challenging them… …. Raising broader societal awareness about the benefits of gender equity, and about women’s equal entitlement to employment in all fields, is as crucial as policy reforms and state or corporate actions that protect women’s interests and facilitate their agency. “ The discussion includes interesting observations about women’s challenges  in engineering professions and in apprenticeships.

The second paper, also by Bipasha Baruah, is  Creating and Optimizing Employment Opportunities for Women in the Clean Energy Sector in Canada .  This paper has been released previously and was highlighted in April 2018 in the Work and Climate Change Report, along with  Women and Climate Change Impacts and Action in Canada: Feminist, Indigenous and Intersectional Perspectives , published by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in Canada`, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience. Both reports note the underrepresentation of women in the clean energy industry and call for improvements in workforce training and hiring; the working paper by Bipasha Baruah emphasizes the need for change in societal attitudes.

The publisher, Smart Prosperity is  based at the University of Ottawa, and announced major new funding at the end of  March 2018 , which will enable new research in a “Greening Growth Partnership” initiative.  Click here for information about the funding and the international experts who will be participating in Smart Prosperity research.

Proposals for a green transition that is just and inclusive in Ontario

decent_work_in_the_green_economy-coverDecent Work in the Green Economy, released on October 11 , combines research on green transitions worldwide with the reality of  labour market trends in Ontario, and includes economic modelling of  Ontario’s cap and trade program, conducted by EnviroEconomics and Navius Research.  The resulting analysis identifies which sectors are expected to grow strongly under a green transition (e.g. utilities and waste management and remediation),  which will see lower growth (e.g. petroleum refining and petrochemical production), and which will see a transformation of skills requirements (e.g. mining, manufacturing, and  forestry). Section 3 of the report discusses the impacts on job quality (including wages, benefits, unionization, and job permanence), as well as skills requirements.  The general discussion in Section 3 is supplemented by two detailed Appendices about the employment impacts by economic sector,  and by disadvantaged and equity-seeking groups (which includes racialized workers, Indigenous people, workers with disabilities, newcomers, women, and rural Ontarians.) A final  Appendix describes the modelling behind the analysis, which projects employment impacts of low carbon technologies by 2030.

The paper calls for a comprehensive Just Transition Strategy for Ontario, and proposes  six core elements illustrated by case study “success stories”.   These case studies include the Solar City Program in Halifax, Nova Scotia, (which uses local supply chains and accounted for local employment impacts), and the UK Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy (which incorporated diversity goals and explicit targets in workforce development and retraining initiatives).  An important element of the recommended Just Transition Strategy includes a dedicated Green Transitions Fund, to transfer funding for targeted programs to communities facing disproportionate job loss; to universities or colleges to provide specialized academic programs; to social enterprise or service providers to carry out re-training programs; to directly impacted companies to invest in their employees; and to individuals in transition (much like EI payments).

The authors also call for better data collection to measure and monitor the link between green economy policies and employment outcomes, and better mechanisms for regular, ongoing dialogue.  This call for ongoing dialogue seems intended to provide a role for workers (and unions, though they are less often mentioned). The authors state: “No effort to ensure decent work in the green economy will be successful without meaningfully engaging workers who are directly impacted by the transition, to understand where and how they might need support. Just as important will be the ongoing engagement with employers and industry to understand the changing employment landscape, and how workers can best prepare for it.” And, on page 39,  “Public policy will be a key driver in ensuring that this transition is just and equitable. …. Everyone has a role to play in this transition. Governments, employers, workers, unions and non-profit organizations alike must remember that if we fail to ensure that the green transition is just and inclusive, we will have missed a vital opportunity to address today’s most pressing challenges. But if we design policies and programs that facilitate this transition with decent work in mind, they have the potential to benefit all Ontarians.”

Decent Work in the Green Economy was published by the  Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto, in cooperation with the Smart Prosperity Institute at the University of Ottawa.  In addition to economic modelling, the analysis and policy discussion is based on an extensive literature review as well as expert interviews and input from government, industry, labour and social justice representatives. Part of the purpose of the report is to initiate discussion “between those actively supporting the transition to a green economy and those advocating for decent work” as defined by the ILO.  Further, the report states: “ Importantly, this conversation must address the need for equal opportunities among historically disadvantaged and equity-seeking groups who currently face barriers to accessing decent work.”

Clean Energy Jobs a pathway to decent work for California’s disadvantaged workers; plus economic benefits of California’s climate policies

Three recent studies from University of California at Berkeley provide evidence of the job benefits of clean energy industries.  The first,“Diversity in California’s Clean Energy Workforce”, from Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education Green Economy Program, claims to be the first quantitative analysis of who is getting into apprentice training programs and jobs on renewables. It states that  “ Joint union-employer apprenticeship programs have helped people of color get training and career-track jobs building California’s clean energy infrastructure”.   The authors attribute this to the recruitment efforts by unions, as well as the location of many renewable power plants in areas where there are high concentrations of disadvantaged communities.  It  presents data for the ethnic, racial and gender composition of enrollment in apprenticeship programs in 16 union locals for electricians, ironworkers and operating engineers. The report finds significant variation in racial and ethnic diversity amongst  unions,with women’s participation minimal, (ranging from 2 – 6%) in all cases. Uniquely, the study also examined the impact of clean energy construction on disadvantaged workers, finding that  43% of entry-level workers live in disadvantaged communities, and 47% live in communities with unemployment rates of at least 13%.  Further, it states:  “Most large-scale renewable energy plants have been built under project labor agreements. These agreements require union wage and benefit standards and provide free training through apprenticeship programs.”

Two other reports were released by the Center for Labor Research and Education, the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley Law,  and advocacy group Next 10.   The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley: Analysis through 2015 and Projections to 2030 (January)   and  The Net Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs in the Inland Empire: Analysis of 2010-2016 and Beyond  (August)  examine the impact of climate programs on  California’s most environmentally vulnerable regions.  The “Inland Empire” (defined as the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside) report , examined four key policies: cap and trade, the renewables portfolio standard, distributed solar policies and energy efficiency programs.  These policies were found to have brought a net benefit of $9.1 billion in direct economic activity and 41,000 net direct jobs from 2010 to 2016 .  Policy recommendations to continue these benefits:  “reward cleaner transportation in this region; help disburse cap-and-trade auction proceeds in a timely and predictable manner; and create robust transition programs for workers and communities affected by the decline of the Inland Empire’s greenhouse gas-emitting industries, including re-training and job placement programs, bridges to retirement, and regional economic development initiatives.”

The three reports were released to be part of the public debate about extending the cap and trade legislation (passed in July) and about California’s Senate Bill SB100 , which passed 2nd reading in the legislature on September 5.  SB100 would toughen existing targets to  60% renewable electricity by 2030, and  require utilities to plan for 100% renewable electricity by 2045 .