Building Bridges to Energy Sector Careers through Service Years
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are launching substantial new investments to advance the nation’s climate resilience and clean energy goals. One key to achieving these goals is developing new strategies to recruit, train, and hire people to carry out the work. Service year programs — including service and conservation corps programs funded through AmeriCorps, the Department of Labor and other federal agencies — have long played a role in advancing environmental resilience efforts in local communities. This influx of federal funding provides an opportunity for states to jumpstart investments in clean energy talent pipelines, developing partnerships between state service commissions, local service year programs, and state energy agencies. By working together, states can provide communities with opportunities to accomplish key resilience infrastructure priorities while also filling significant hiring needs for a broad array of employers working to advance energy and climate resilience goals.
On Thursday, December 1, Brookings Metro and Service Year Alliance co-hosted an event to explore this infrastructure workforce opportunity, with an emphasis on creating a talent pipeline for the energy efficiency sector. The event examined how current service year programs are undertaking energy transition work through strong relationships with state partners, including state energy agencies. The event also outlined the continued need for federal leadership in promoting service year programs through grant making incentives and state agency guidance, as a way to build out infrastructure talent pipelines. Watch a recording of the event, "Building a pipeline to energy sector careers through service years" here.
This white paper outlines how service year programs, state service commissions, and state energy agencies can work together to launch clean energy infrastructure programs utilizing service years, and offers new and forthcoming resources which will help to highlight a variety of program models.
How to Expand and Stand Up New Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnerships in Your State
- A great first step is to contact your state service commission to learn about existing service year programs focusing on weatherization, energy audits, energy conservation, environmental stewardship, and other infrastructure-adjacent activities. This not only will help to identify existing service year infrastructure in the space but also to illuminate any potential gaps.
- As state partners, state service commissions and state energy agencies can develop strong relationships and explore opportunities for collaboration on behalf of individual programs.
- State energy agencies can help service commissions identify new infrastructure and IRA funding streams that service year programs could explore alone or in partnership with other organizations, specifically any that have a workforce development focus or goals. State energy agencies can also inform service commissions of existing applicable apprenticeship programs, so that commissions can connect the dots to suitable pre-apprenticeship service year programs and understand where geographic gaps might occur.
- State service commissions can continue to provide on-ramps to new and existing service programs, including technical assistance, planning, and support, who are interested in starting up, expanding, or enhancing programming to align with the state’s broader energy goals.
- State and local workforce boards can offer a suite of workforce development tools, training, and resources to service year programs hoping to better integrate talent development into their model. Updated federal guidance related to WIOA and how it can be used to braid with AmeriCorps resources, similar to other federal agencies, would help to facilitate this on the ground.
- Service year programs, in partnerships with service commissions, can engage with your state’s workforce agency about how programs can adopt pre-apprenticeship programming, as an entry point into an apprenticeship – a great recruiting opportunity for a diverse array of potential corps members.
- Private sector employers can reach out to state service commissions to learn more about the existing footprint of clean energy service year programs, opportunities to market open positions to graduating corps members, and possibilities to partner directly to provide additional career exposure, workforce training, and skill development during service.
- In late March 2023, Service Year Alliance will be publishing tools that will further guide energy agencies and state service commissions in designing high-quality energy efficiency programming that will meet the unique needs of their state. To stay in touch and learn more about these tools, please reach out to Brent Kossick at [email protected].
Service Year Alumni in Energy Sector Careers
Cameron Mannina, Green Iowa AmeriCorps
Green Iowa AmeriCorps is a state-wide community service program that was founded in 2009 to address sustainable usage of energy resources. The program is composed of 3 branches: Energy and Community, Sustainable Schools, and the Land & Water Stewards.
As a corps member of Green Iowa AmeriCorps, Cameron Mannina worked with industry leading sustainability organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council Center for Green Schools and connected with sustainability professionals from around the country. Through his service, he worked with energy bench-marking and learned about facility management. He attests that this has made a significant difference in his ability to be an industry leader in sustainability and after one year of service, Cameron was able to secure a full-time job working with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bryan Garcia, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
The Peace Corps continues to develop globally minded environmentalists who return to become leaders locally. For example, Bryan Garcia, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer specializing in NGO capacity building and environmental education in the Republic of Kazakhstan, is currently the president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank, the nation’s first state-level green bank. The green bank model demonstrates how smarter use of public resources can attract more private investment in the green economy, reducing the burden of energy costs on households and businesses, creating jobs in local communities, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change.
Before joining the Green Bank, Garcia was program director for the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. At Yale, Garcia led efforts to develop a leading global program responsible for preparing environmental leaders for business and society. He also served as Connecticut’s Climate Change Coordinator where he supported the Governor’s Steering Committee on Climate Change.
Resources & How to Get Involved
Service and Conservation Programs Can Lead to Infrastructure Careers | Brookings Institution, July 2022
This report, published by Brookings Metro Senior Fellow, Martha Ross, and Brookings Metro Fellow, Joe Kane, in July 2022, is a helpful overview of how service and conservation programs can help fill roles and retain workers for infrastructure jobs.
Seizing the U.S. infrastructure opportunity: Investing in current and future workers | Brookings Institution, December 2022
Brookings Metro Fellow, Joe Kane, released this report on building and maintaining an infrastructure workforce which explores the hiring, training, and retention gaps across this workforce and aims to support leaders to better target, measure, and address their infrastructure workforce needs.
- Service Years as a Strategy to Develop Talent Pipelines and Expanding Service Years in State and Local Communities
These resources from Service Year Alliance offer a range of recommendations for scaling service years to meet workforce needs, targeted at service year programs and state leaders.
Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps
The Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps (PCCC) is a non-partisan collection of over 100 cross-sector national, state, and local organizations working to implement a national service corps to tackle climate resilience and mitigation and put youth on career pathways into apprenticeships and good-paying jobs in the resilience and clean energy sector. The Partnership launched in January 2022 with an op-ed in Utility Dive calling on President Biden to invest in a climate resilience corps to fill workforce gaps in the green jobs sector.
To join the Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps or learn more about this work, please contact Melissa Bender at [email protected].
Climate Service Year Blueprints | Service Year Alliance
Service Year Alliance is currently operating a learning cohort of service year programs in the climate and clean energy space. A series of three blueprints are forthcoming in spring 2023 which will outline best practices and concrete suggestions on how to stand up successful climate-related service year programming in rural resiliency, community capacity building, and energy efficiency.
For more information about these blueprints or details on how to get involved in this work, please contact Brent Kossick at [email protected].