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 .
A Community Benefits Agreement for the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit project in Toronto is expected to create around 300 jobs for youth, women and minority workers from the low income areas the project traverses. According to an article in the Toronto Star, local people “will receive construction and trades training through education centres set up by local unions — who are guaranteeing job placements for those who complete their skills-building programs.” A Framework Agreement was first struck in 2014; at that point, the Toronto Community Benefits Network had proposed that 15 % of employee hours on the Crosstown project should go to people with employment barriers, including women, aboriginal people, racialized workers, and new Canadians. The new project Declaration , finalized on December 7, 2016, has set the bar at 10% of employee hours, but is being hailed as a precedent-setting example of the community benefits model for large scale infrastructure projects in Canada. For the first time in North America, this agreement includes professional, administration, and technical jobs as well as skilled construction trades. The Toronto and York District Labour Council states it best in its press release : “A Community Benefits Agreement is powerful tool to overcome the historical underrepresentation of minorities and women in the construction industry. Jobs in the construction trades are good, well-paying jobs with benefits and a focus on safety. They can also be green jobs. Most importantly, workers have the opportunity to help build up their communities with the sense of pride, ownership and responsibility that engenders.”
A June 2015 article in WCR describes the community benefits agreement concept, cites examples in Vancouver and Los Angeles, and highlights Ontario’s Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015. That Ontario legislation from June 2015 requires “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”.
“Green Skills Training and Certification” was the topic of the opening Plenary session of the Training Conference of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) in Vancouver on June 4 . The Green Skills session related to electrical vehicle infrastructure technology, photovoltaic solar energy technologies, and advanced energy‐conserving lighting system controls. NETCO is a joint partnership of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) of Canada, and is associated with The electrical training ALLIANCE™ of the U.S. Another IBEW initiative was highlighted in a May report from the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at U of California, Berkeley. Training for the Future II: Progress to Date describes the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT) program, a model program for entry-level disadvantaged workers in Los Angeles, jointly operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and IBEW Local 18. Since 2011, trainees “earn-and-learn” by working full time weatherizing homes and small businesses while learning skills and preparing for civil service exams in the utility. The first Training for the Future report from 2013 is also available.
The Manitoba Research Alliance, part of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, recently released a report which summarizes the activities of three Manitoba social enterprises: Aki Energy ( training geothermal energy installers); Meechim Foods (a food sovereignity project northwest of Winnipeg), and the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP) (training for green retrofitting at public housing). Most of the workers involved in training and job placements are disadvantaged Aboriginal workers. The report, Government Support for Social Enterprise Can Reduce Poverty and Green House Gases also examines the legislation and policies that support these initiatives, and the important role that Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Housing play in providing work opportunities for trainees. Considering the future after the next provincial election in April 2016, the author states: “If Manitoba were to follow Ontario’s example and privatize Hydro the damage would be considerable”. The report is summarized in a January 13 article in Rabble.ca.