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.”

One more time – how best to train workers in green construction?

UK 2019 housingThe  U.K.’s Committee on Climate Change released a new report on February 21, U.K. Housing – Fit for the Future? , assessing how well U.K. housing  is prepared for the impacts of climate change, including heat waves and flood risks. Energy use in Britain’s 29 million homes accounts for 14% of current GHG emissions, and the report concludes that the U.K. cannot meet its present climate targets without major improvement in the housing sector.  The report states that energy use in homes actually  increased between 2016 and 2017, with many energy efficiency initiatives stalled and standards and policies weakened or not enforced.  The report identifies 5 priorities and makes 36 recommendations to improve that performance, with a goal  to reduce emissions by 24 % by 2030 from 1990 levels.

One of the five priority areas needing urgent change is “the skills gap”.  The report states: “Regular changes to key policies have led to uncertainty and poor focus on new housing design and construction skills in the UK. The UK Government should use the initiatives announced under the Construction Sector Deal to tackle the low-carbon skills gap. …. Professional standards and skills across the building, heat and ventilation supply trades need to be reviewed, with a nationwide training programme to upskill the existing workforce, along with an increased focus on incentivising high ‘as-built’ performance. There is an urgent need for further work to ensure that low-carbon heat and mechanical ventilation systems are designed, commissioned and installed properly, and that householders are supported to use them effectively. Similar efforts are needed to develop appropriate skills and training for passive cooling measures, water efficiency, property-level flood resilience and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).”

The Paper Trail of Government Reports:  The Construction Sector Deal  referred to is a 2018 policy paper, part of the larger Industrial Strategy exercise, which includes a “People” section , which describes very specific proposals to improve training and apprenticeship programs under the industry-led Construction Industry Training Board (which was itself reviewed in 2018).  The 2018 Construction Sector Deal built upon Construction 2025,  which was a vision paper of government and industry working together, released in 2013.

A different perspective from the government-industry reports appears in an article by   Linda Clarke, Colin Gleeson, and Christopher Winch in 2017, “What kind of expertise is needed for low energy construction?” which appeared in the journal Construction Management and Economics.  The authors, from ProBE , the Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment at University of Westminster,   sketched out the essence of the problem, stating: “There is a lack of the expertise needed for low energy construction (LEC) in the UK as the complex work processes involved require ‘energy literacy’ of all construction occupations, high qualification levels, broad occupational profiles, integrated teamworking, and good communication.”  Their proposed prescription for low energy construction  was “a transformation of the existing structure of VET provision and construction employment and a new curriculum based on a broader concept of agency and backed by rigorous enforcement of standards. This can be achieved through a radical transition pathway rather than market-based solutions to a low carbon future for the construction sector.”

Reducing emissions from Canada’s built environment – what is the government thinking?

green bibliotechqueIn 2015, Canada’s building sector  accounted for approximately 12% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment , a November 16 report from the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.   The report discusses “a wide range of policy tools and technology solutions that could lower building sector GHG emissions, including: national building codes; energy efficiency standards and labels; technology research, development, and demonstration; fuel-switching for space heating; federal investments in buildings; and, the role of cities and urban design.”  In its concluding statements, the Committee notes that the existing federal Build Smart Strategy faces pressures of climate-change related urgency, as well as the need to harmonize and work with the various provincial jurisdictions. In the discussion of energy efficiency, the report cites the testimony of David Lapp of Engineers Canada,  in which he states that each $1 million invested in energy efficiency improvements is estimated to generate up to $3 to $4 million in gross domestic product and up to 13 jobs.   The report provides links to the testimony of all witnesses who appeared before it – no unions or worker representatives appeared.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment  is the last of five interim reports by the Senate Committee regarding Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report is scheduled to be released later in 2018, compiling all five studies and issuing recommendations for the government.

The government has already received recommendations on the topic, from the June 2018 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development:  Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future , and in French, De Meilleurs Bâtiments Pour un Avenir À Faibles Émissions de Carbone .   In October, the  Government released its  Response report  (French version here),  which included reaction to the Committee’s Recommendation # 4,  that “Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement net-zero energy ready codes.”  The Government response offers only a reaffirmation of its commitment to existing  skills training, upgrading and apprenticeship programs. What little new thinking there is comes in the statement regarding green jobs: “The Government is also supporting the development of specific skills required for employment in green jobs. For example, the Green Jobs Science and Technology Internship program is investing more than $16 million to create 1,200 jobs as part of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. This program provides opportunities for post-secondary graduates to gain relevant work experience through green jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields in the natural resources sector. NRCan is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with non-government organizations, trade associations and provincial and territorial governments to develop training resources to support implementation of net-zero energy ready codes by 2030.”

 

New York state announces new funds for clean energy training, electric vehicles 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a press release on September 4,  announcing $15 million to help promote clean energy workforce development and training programs at various campuses of the State University of New York (SUNY). Some of the programs awarded funding include: a  “Solar Ready Vets” program on site at Fort Drum to train veterans transitioning to civilian life in renewable energy ; updates including electrical/solar photovotaic information for continuing education curricula for architects, engineers, and building and code inspectors at  Erie Community College; development of a wind operations technician training program  at the Off-Shore Energy Center of  SUNY Maritime . These initiatives are part of the Clean Climate Careers Initiative, announced in June 2017,  which aims to  create 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020. The Clean Climate Careers Initiative partners the state government with Cornell University’s Workers’ Institute, as well as  Climate Jobs NY , a labour union coalition led by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, New York’s Central Labor Council, and the Service Employees International Union.

According to the latest available report from the  New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) in Q12018, 3,919 New Yorkers had been trained in a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy courses, through the Green Jobs – Green New York Act (2009). The funding program ended in December 2016, although one training program still continues.   The New York Clean Energy Industry Report for 2017  reported that there were  146,000  clean energy  jobs in New York State by December 2016 – 110,000 of those in energy efficiency roles.

Electric vehicles:  Governor Cuomo issued another press release on September 5,  announcing that the state will utilize $127.7 million received from the 2016 Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to increase the number of electric and clean vehicles, by reducing the cost of  new transit and school buses, trucks, and other vehicles, as well as supporting electric vehicle charging equipment.  The new proposals are detailed in  the NYS Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.    The existing Charge NY  program to incentivize electric vehicle adoption is credited with a 67 percent increase in ev’s sold in New York state between 2016 to 2017.

Standing Committee recommendations for a greener built environment include training

passive house exterior VancouverOn June 18, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development presented their latest and 17th report, Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future .  The Committee mandate included the collective of  residences, commercial buildings, and institutional buildings – which are responsible for approximately 12% of  total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The research for the Standing Committee report began in February 2018 and consisted of  four meetings, during which Committee members heard from 19 witnesses and received five written briefs from witnesses – including government officials, industry associations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association, real estate developers such as Landmark Homes,  Canada Green Building Council, Passive House Canada – but no labour unions or worker organizations .  Testimony is available from this link , and a Brief from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada  has also been made public.

The report summarizes the provisions related to the built environment in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, also available in the federal 2018 Status Report on the Framework),  discusses the building codes in Canada, and addresses the unique situations of heritage buildings and buildings in Canada’s North. The Committee makes 21 specific recommendations, including:

#1  “the National Research Council, working with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, publish the national model energy codes for both new and existing buildings as soon as possible, and for existing buildings no later than fiscal year 2022-23”;

#4 “The Committee recommends that Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement netzero energy ready codes;

#6 “The Committee recommends that Infrastructure Canada work to provide significant funding in order to accelerate energy retrofits of commercial, institutional, and multi-residential buildings in the public and private sectors, such as through the Canada Infrastructure Bank”;

#10 “The Committee recommends that Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council, and Environment and Climate Change Canada include building operator and building inspector training as part of federal funding, research, and incentive programs aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment”;

#16 “The Committee requests that the federal government focus more attention on its Greening Government Strategy and report back to the Committee on its progress by the end of 2018 .”