Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier announced today a new grant program designed to boost Pennsylvania’s competitive edge in the clean-energy sector by promoting workforce development and overall industry recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. L&I is inviting local workforce development boards to submit project proposals that would support at least 25 local or regional clean-energy businesses.
Five Clean Energy Workforce Development Grants of up to $500,000 each are available, for a total of $2.5 million committed statewide. Proposals are due to the department March 14th, 2022. The workforce development projects will kick off in July and continue through June 2025.
“This investment in the clean-energy sector’s workforce is an investment in the future of Pennsylvania. While its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is well under way, this is an industry that the Wolf Administration wants to see thrive over the next decade. We need to be developing a talent pipeline now to make that vision a reality,” Secretary Berrier said.
A 2021 report from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found that Pennsylvania – a manufacturing hub for wind, hydro turbine, and ENERGY STAR products – lost 13,200 clean-energy jobs between March and December 2020 due to the COVID-19 economic fallout – a 14% decline compared to 2019.
Today, with the industry recovering, employers indicate a need for more skilled workers within the clean-energy sector. In fact, before the pandemic, eight in 10 clean-energy employers in Pennsylvania reported difficulty finding qualified applicants at the end of 2019, citing lack of experience and industry-specific knowledge.
Going forward, Pennsylvania’s clean-energy sector will require greater numbers of skilled fabricators, assemblers, and other manufacturing workers. Throughout the commonwealth, a growing demand for clean-energy generation and energy efficiency will dictate a need for construction and installation workers such as HVAC mechanics, electricians, and solar photovoltaic installers.
The DEP report indicated clean-energy workers are more likely to receive healthcare and retirement benefits compared to national private-sector averages and are very satisfied with their careers and opportunities for advancement. With often lower formal educational requirements than a four-year degree, the clean-energy industry is largely accessible to job seekers with minimal up-front training.
The clean energy industry includes the technology sectors of energy efficiency, clean energy generation, alternative transportation, clean grid and storage and clean fuels. Clean energy sub-sectors include solar, wind, efficient lighting, hydropower, smart grid, electric vehicles, and biomass fuels.