Educators, Businesses Unite to Address Need for Clean Energy Jobs

By David Kligman

green jobs

Participants in the workshop agreed that coordination is needed to take advantage of all the opportunities for green jobs.

SAN RAMON — The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates as many as 29,000 clean energy jobs will be needed in PG&E’s territory by 2020.

Engineers, energy auditors, project managers, skilled contractors and demand-side energy efficiency experts—to name just a few—will all be called on to make commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings more energy efficient.

For the most part, colleges, businesses and utilities are all addressing those needs separately. The CPUC has said that individual approach is holding back the full potential of the clean energy industry.

Until now.

On Wednesday (Feb. 29), PG&E hosted a kickoff Energy Workforce Sector Strategy meeting, the first step in getting alignment and coordination around the creation of commercial business energy-efficiency jobs.

The working session was the result of a request by the CPUC to get all investor-owned utilities in the state to adopt and lead the development of coordinated job training to achieve California’s energy efficiency goals based on market demand.

‘Start to have a roadmap’

“Our goal is to start to have a road map that links all of our partners with what they have to offer and develop a plan,” said Steve Kline, a PG&E vice president and its chief sustainability officer. “Right now we’re working hard, but we’re doing things independently. This meeting is the first leg of a much larger journey.”

The meeting, attended by about 150 professionals at PG&E’s San Ramon conference center, included everyone from officials with the California Energy Commission to industry employers to community college, UC and Cal State professors. Representatives with Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy also participated.

As part of the meeting, attendees broke into separate groups and identified workforce needs. Some of the suggestions were apprenticeship programs, job shadowing and cross-training within companies. Each group then reported on their discussions. Among the feedback:

  • “Rather than reinvent the wheel and recreating other certifications, everyone should be part of one single initiative.”
  • “We hear a lot about hot jobs, but a lot of those hot jobs aren’t here yet. What we need to talk about is hot skills.”
  • “We need to get property owners and other end users at the table and begin to understand what their needs are.”

Plenty of buildings to make more efficient

With 9 billion square feet of non-residential commercial, industrial and agricultural building space in California, there are huge opportunities for a skilled energy-efficiency workforce, said Jim Caldwell, executive director of the Workforce Incubator, a team providing PG&E with market and education research.

“How do we grow this market and accelerate progress toward the state’s energy efficiency goals?” Caldwell said. “That means we have to address a larger part of the market faster and more effectively, and that’s a huge component of what we’re planning to do.”

The research was gathered with PG&E’s territory in mind, but the results could be applied statewide.

Robert Marcial of PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center described using Internet-based training to reach more people, reduce costs and track progress during and after the course. One of the presenters then introduced vignettes of an online course created by PG&E that demonstrates a lesson on solar geometry.

Dave Teasdale is director of the Clean Energy Center at the Kern Community College District, which has trained more than 300 students the past two years. He said he attended the strategy meeting so he could be part of the industry discussion.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re in a spot to move more quickly than education normally moves,” Teasdale said.

From an educator’s perspective, Teasdale said while there’s a definite need for energy-efficiency jobs, he said there will be even more demand for people with current jobs who want to upgrade their skills.

“I liken it to the IT industry in the early ‘80s,” he said. “We anticipated a boom of software programmers. That was actually a small number compared with the larger number of people who needed basic computer skills. In terms of clean energy, I believe everybody is going to have to have an understanding of their role in their organization’s energy use.”

At the end of the meeting, Caldwell said a plan would be created with input from those who attended the meeting. A team of stakeholders from the meeting is scheduled to be in place by April 30.

E-mail David Kligman at david.kligman@pge.com.

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