To achieve a clean energy transformation, it’s crucial to have an increased workforce dedicated to the installation of solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, energy-efficiency upgrades, and grid enhancements. These workers play a vital role in the essential transition from fossil fuels to clean renewables.
According to CleanTechnica, the US Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeships recently selected the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) to develop and manage the Apprenticeships in Clean Energy Network. Through this network, efforts are being made to expand the American renewable energy workforce.
Apprenticeships in Clean Energy (ACE) Network
The Apprenticeships in Clean Energy (ACE) Network is a collaborative initiative led by IREC to expand registered apprenticeships in the clean energy industry.
With the support of clean energy employers, educational institutions, workforce agencies, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders, IREC and its partners are working together to promote the expansion of registered apprenticeships nationwide.
The project aims to register a minimum of 2,500 new apprentices over the next five years, with a primary focus on the solar and energy efficiency sectors. Additionally, the initiative aims to ensure that at least 50% of the recruited apprentices come from disadvantaged populations, including women, racial minorities, and veterans.
The duration of a registered apprenticeship can vary depending on the occupation. For example, apprenticeships in construction trades like plumbing and carpentry typically last for four years, while most other programs require a minimum of two years to complete.
The Department of Labor has specific guidelines for over 1,000 approved occupations. Throughout the apprenticeship, employers are responsible for providing structured on-the-job learning, supervision, and mentorship.
The apprentices’ pay is typically a percentage (40-60%) of what a fully qualified person earns at the start of the program. Over time, the apprentice will get incremental pay increases, eventually receiving full pay upon completion.
Upon finishing the registered apprenticeship, participants receive a credential from the Department of Labor as proof of their completion in the specific occupation. This credential is akin to a degree, indicating comprehensive education in the field.
Many registered apprenticeship programs also include additional industry-recognized credentials as part of the training.
Opportunities for Youth
Apprentices can start as young as 16 and begin an apprenticeship program while still in high school. However, each program has its own set of requirements, including age eligibility.
Many colleges offer the necessary technical instruction, and some programs even provide college credit or degrees upon completion of the apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are paid positions, with the majority of the learning taking place on the job under the guidance of a qualified mentor. Typically, individuals are expected to work full-time throughout the duration of the apprenticeship.
How Clean Energy Apprenticeships Grow the Economy
As apprentices, individuals learn valuable trade skills or professional occupations while actively contributing to the workforce. Although not mandatory, most employers cover the costs of the related instruction and even offer compensation to apprentices attending classes.
Therefore, apprenticeships stimulate economic growth by providing meaningful services to employers’ customers while they expand their workforce. Additionally, apprentices receive wages that help boost the economy.
Although apprentices may earn a lower wage compared to fully qualified individuals, they avoid accumulating debt during their education and training.
According to the US Department of Energy, clean energy jobs saw a 3.9% growth in 2022, surpassing the overall US employment growth rate by a full percentage point. This means that the clean energy industry grew 35% faster than the rest of the economy during that time frame.
Clean energy jobs increased in all states across the country. At the end of 2022, the clean energy industry accounted for 40% of all energy jobs, with the solar sector alone employing more people than the combined workforce of the oil, coal, and natural gas sectors.
The states experiencing the most rapid growth in clean energy jobs are California, West Virginia, and Texas.
Opportunities for Individuals Who Are Unemployed Mid-Career
Mid-career individuals who have faced unemployment have the opportunity to pursue apprenticeships as a means of transitioning into a different career.
It’s important to acknowledge that when making a career change, individuals may have to undergo additional training to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for their new role. Opting for an apprenticeship instead of quitting their current job and returning to school allows them to earn wages while undergoing training.
The apprenticeship wage may vary depending on the occupation and their previous job, and it will increase as they progress through the program.
For individuals interested in learning more about apprenticeships and the available options, the US Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship.gov website is an invaluable resource. It offers a wide range of information, including an Apprenticeship Job Finder tool.
To discover registered apprenticeship opportunities in their local area, individuals can visit the “One Stop” American Job Centers, which provide insights into the local workforce demands and training opportunities.
Additionally, more information about the ACE clean energy apprenticeship network can be found on IRECUSA.org.