The energy transition underway in the United States presents a unique set of opportunities to put Americans back to work through the deployment of new technologies, infrastructure, energy efficiency, and expansion of the electricity system to meet our carbon goals. Unlike many previous industrial transitions, the U.S. can directly influence the pace of change and create new jobs while old ones are phasing out. The next administration should launch the Energy Transition Workforce Initiative to put Americans back to work with well-paying, union jobs building a stronger, more climate-resilient nation.
The Energy Transition Workforce Initiative proposes a collection of actions that the incoming administration could enact on Day One and through the Administration’s first year. This set of actions largely tracks the following three principles:
- Utilize carbon-reduction investments – such as energy efficiency upgrades, infrastructure investments and electrification technologies – as economic development tools in under-served communities and those impacted by the loss of fossil-fuel jobs.
- Expand our existing energy workforce training system to respond to all communities experiencing dislocations and high levels of unemployment, while also providing opportunity and training for the additional employees necessary to complete the energy transition.
- Allocate $20 billion over the next decade specifically to retrain the existing energy workforce with a focus on their impacted communities.
With success, the Energy Transition Workforce Initiative will ensure that the U.S. captures all the opportunities presented by the energy transition for the middle and working class.
Despite the uphill battle the country is facing, Dr. Schlaerth feels optimistic about the future possibilities of industrial decarbonization.
“The awesome thing is that folks are really interested in a conversion to clean energy and what they can do to support the Tribe. It’s really fun to go out there and see that people want to move in that direction.”
Despite significant advances in scientific tools and methods, the traditional, labor-intensive model of scientific research in materials discovery has seen little innovation.
Community navigator programs can provide much-needed capacity combined with deep place-based knowledge to create local champions with expertise in accessing federal funding.