How Can Workforce Development Fight Climate Change?

With the transition to green energy, many working-class Americans are wondering where their next paycheck will come from. Despite recent California climate initiatives looking to offer 4 million new jobs across the next twenty years, making a career change can be a daunting task. 1 However, steps are being taken to ensure these workers are supported. One such step is Assembly Bill 1966, which seeks to support the state’s efforts to curb climate change with, “funding for workforce training programs to transition dislocated workers affected by the state’s greenhouse gas emission policies.” 2 This would include wage replacement and retraining programs, i.e. workforce development. 

Workforce development is often thought of as a question of schooling: should students be taught based on what is fulfilling or what will help them succeed? However, it is a concept that spans all industries and walks of life. For example, the High Road Construction Careers(HRCC) is a California Workforce Development Board(CWDB) program that seeks to connect the workforce with the construction industry through pre-apprenticeship courses.3 These courses work off of MultiCraft Core Curriculum, which gives students a wide variety of experiences to help them find the right path for them.3 In addition to this, the program prepares them for difficult physical labor as well as helps them obtain first aid training and OSHA 10 cards.3

When asked about retraining workers, Tim Rainey, the executive director of the CWDB, stated, “Our end game is to get people in the trades because our real end game is to move people out of poverty.”1 When one looks at the individuals being assisted by the California Workforce Development Board’s initiatives, this statement checks out. HRCC courses instruct many previously incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth on how to obtain, and hold, a career in construction.3 The program also helps women break into that historically male-dominated field.3 In addition to this, the CWDB administers the Corrections-Workforce Partnership and the Prison to Employment Grant Initiative, both of which seek to help reintegrate prisoners into the workforce upon release.4

Still, what about workers who are being displaced? Their concerns about finding new careers can be assuaged by the steps that are being taken by AB 1966, and the fact that training programs are there to help. The success of the HRCC is a perfect example. In 2020 the program reported that 2,100 of its 2,701 enrollments graduated the program, which is 78 percent of their students.5 Additionally, 79 percent of these graduates were placed in some sort of higher education or construction position upon graduation.5

The adjustment from fossil fuels to green energy can be difficult, and it presents many issues to not only Californians but those all across the country. However, this shift is an entirely possible one, and these programs help paint a picture of clean and swift innovation.

Molly Mellon // CIRB Journalism Intern

1  See Gedye and Lopez, “How can California workers transition to green energy jobs?”

2  See Muratsuchi, “AB-1966 Fossil fuel-dependent workers: California Equitable Just Transition Fund”

3  See California Workforce Development Board, “HRCC: Apprenticeship Readiness Programs”

4  See California Workforce Development Board, “Corrections – Workforce Partnership & Prison to Employment Initiative”

5  See California Workforce Development Board, “Final Jobs and Training Report to the Prop 39 Citizens Oversight Board”