Skills and training for Clean jobs in the U.S. : Focus on infrastructure and auto manufacturing

A January 25th blog by the Brookings Institution is a recent addition to a series of publications about  the workforce implications of the transition to a clean economy. “The Green New Deal promises jobs, but workers need to be ready to fill them”   (Jan. 25) broadly discusses the range of occupations which will be affected by the transition to a clean economy, and promises forthcoming research which “will delve deeper” into the workforce issues – going beyond simply job estimates and forecasts to look at skills and training requirements and barriers, as well as working conditions.

Brookings AV workforce infographicSpecific to the transformation of the auto manufacturing industry, Brookings has published “What GM’s layoffs reveal about the digitalization of the auto industry”   (Dec. 13 2018) and in February 2019,  “Equipping today’s AV workforce with skills to succeed tomorrow” , which defines the “digital mobility workforce” to include truck drivers, automotive service technicians and mechanics, and many other jobs beyond the engineers we normally associate with autonomous vehicle production.  The article cites the Michigan Alliance for Greater Mobility Advancement (MAGMA),  a component of the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN), which  exists to identify the skill needs, and train for, “Michigan’s rapidly changing automotive industry as it moves towards CAV, cybersecurity, embedded software systems, and other emerging technologies.”

Earlier Brookings reports focus on infrastructure jobs,  including  Infrastructure skills: Knowledge, tools, and training to increase Opportunity (May 2016), and  Renewing the water workforce: Improving water infrastructure and creating a pipeline to opportunity   (June 2018) .  Opportunity Industries: Exploring the industries that concentrate good and promising jobs in metropolitan America  (Dec. 2018) also provides an important look at the potential to improve workforce development policies, although it focuses on “good jobs” and “ promising jobs”,  rather than green jobs,

Manitoba Social Enterprise Program Trains Disadvantaged Workers for Jobs in Clean Energy, Retrofitting

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.

Study Examines “High Road”, Unionized Jobs in the California Solar Industry

A study released on November 10 by the University of California at Berkeley examines the environmental and economic impact of a boom in utility-scale solar electricity generation in California since 2010.

The report describes the overall economic and policy situation, then calculates the new construction, maintenance, and operations jobs created, plus the upstream and downstream jobs. It estimates the income and health and pension benefits of these new construction and plant operations jobs, most of which are unionized.

In California, the union contracts have required payments into apprenticeship training programs; the study calculates the new monies that have been generated for apprenticeship programs, and asserts that the boom in utility-scale solar construction has set in motion a related boom in apprenticeship and other forms of training for electricians, operating engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, millwrights, piledrivers, and laborers. The author estimates how apprenticeship affects lifetime earnings- using the example of electrical apprentices, who are estimated to see a lifetime income approximately $1 million higher than that of workers without similar training.

Finally, the report describes the policy environment that has facilitated this solar boom, and makes recommendations for the future. The author, Peter Philips, from the University of Utah, is currently a Visiting Scholar at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, at the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy.

Labour Should Lead with a Worker-Friendly Climate Plan

Drawing on American economic and labour policy during World War II, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell and Joe Uehlein envision what climate policy could look like with labour in the lead, in an article in the September 2014 issue of New Labor Forum.

The authors acknowledge that unions are caught between the immediate interests of their members, many of whom work in industries vulnerable to new climate regulations, and long-term social, economic, and ecological wellbeing. As a result, labour has at times remained “aloof” to the climate movement, but the authors advocate that the labour movement should take the initiative to develop its own government-led climate plan – one that bridges the divide between work and environment, reverses austerity, raises wages, and offers full employment, job security, and transition training.

As during wartime, the authors contend, climate change demands ramped up production and expansion in innovative sectors. The government should take the lead in financing the low-carbon transition during its initial, more expensive stages, thereby encouraging private investment by creating stable green markets. Citizens should be supported during the transformation through the establishment of a welfare state that diverts carbon tax revenues to workers and the unemployed, provides education and training, and recruits and distributes workers to where they are most needed.

LINKS:

“If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change” in New Labor Forum (v.23, #3) is at: http://nlf.sagepub.com/content/23/3/40.full.pdf+html

Energy Efficiency Investment Bring Jobs in US Scenario

A new report by lead authors Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier proposes a new energy investment program for the U.S., requiring public and private investment of $200 billion per year over the next 20 years, and focussing on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities” argues that the U.S. can cut its carbon pollution by 40% from 2005 levels and create a net increase of 2.7 million clean energy jobs, if policies and investment undergo “a transformational shift in how we construct, finance, and deploy our energy infrastructure”. The report provides estimates of fiscal impacts and job impacts. The authors cite four essential conditions for their scenarios, one of which is “Regional equity and transitional support for communities and workers”, described as “allocating federal government clean energy investment spending equitably among all regions of the country, targeted community-adjustment assistance, extensive worker-training programs, and adjustment-assistance programs for fossil fuel workers. The national clean energy investment program can itself provide a critical base for generating new opportunities among workers and communities that are presently dependent on the fossil fuel industries”.