Worksystems, in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association – Oregon-Columbia Chapter/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 (NECA-IBEW) Training Center and the Oregon Solar Energy Education Fund (OSEEF), has been selected for $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to help train and educate people for jobs in the emerging solar installation industry. This award will create training and placement resources for diverse jobseekers to enter quality jobs in solar installation and related occupations, including union electrical careers, across the Portland metro region.
The funds will leverage NECA-IBEW’s technical expertise, training capacity, and state-of-the-art facilities and OSEEF’s solar apprenticeship program to offer a variety of accessible onramps to high-quality careers, such as pre-apprenticeship programs, registered apprenticeships, and on-the-job training opportunities. Combined with Worksystems’ culturally specific career coaching network, these funds will help to equitably engage and prepare diverse local jobseekers for living-wage careers in an industry that is essential to ushering in a green-energy revolution.
“This is exactly the kind of boost that our region’s solar industry needs,” said Angela Crowley-Koch, executive director of the Oregon Solar Energy Education Fund. “Increasing the number and diversity of workers will strengthen the solar workforce and speed up our transition away from fossil fuels.”
And with the involvement of Portland’s NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in the award, the pieces are in place to train people for union jobs with good wages and solid benefits.
“The careers we train people for are the kind that can lift someone into the middle class,” said Bridget Quinn, workforce development coordinator for the NECA-IBEW Training Center. “You can raise a family and buy a house with one of these careers. This is a game-changer for sure.”
Marshall McGrady, political director for IBEW Local 48, agreed.
“These positions represent a lifetime of earning, learning, and continuing education through IBEW,” he said, “not to mention the chance to get in on the ground floor of an industry that’s only going to grow larger.”
According to the 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar industry comprises over 330,000 employees and added 17,200 new jobs in 2021 – an increase of 5.2 percent. The report also found that while the solar industry is more diverse than some other energy industries, the overall energy workforce lags in Hispanic (17%), Black (8%), and Indigenous worker (1%) representation. With solar power potentially contributing up to one-third of the U.S. electricity supply, there is a need for more equity and inclusivity in the industry
The Dept. of Energy expects that the industry will need to grow to between 500,000 and 1,500,000 workers by 2035 to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s decarbonization goals. These jobs should be accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership.
“This grant will support critical workforce investments that prepare our communities for equitable career pathways in the clean energy economy,” said Kelly Haines, business services manager for Worksystems.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office: The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office accelerates the advancement and deployment of solar technology in support of an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Learn more at energy.gov/eere/solar.
About Worksystems: As the workforce development board for Multnomah and Washington counties, Worksystems invests millions of dollars in federal, state, local, and other funds with a diverse network of businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations in order to diversify the Portland metro workforce and prepare residents for living-wage careers.