By Leslie Guevarra
Grant competitions opened today for $500 million in Recovery Act funds for training programs that will help retool the U.S. workforce for a clean energy economy.
Speaking in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the availability of grants in five broad program areas that will prepare people for jobs in energy efficiency or renewable energy industries.
About $150 million in grants are earmarked for green job training programs that provide “pathways out of poverty,” and a portion of some $290 million in grants will go toward efforts to retrain workers from the hard-hit auto industry.
"These grants are an essential first step towards not just building America's clean energy economy, but making sure that every community gets to enjoy the benefits of that economy," Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins said in a statement provided to GreenBiz.com.
"Thanks to Secretary Solis, this money will ensure that the people who most need these jobs have a chance to earn them -- low-income people, people of color, the unemployed, and those without much formal education."
Green For All was a driving force for inclusion of green job training money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- and for provisions to ensure that training opportunities are extended to some of the country's most economically disadvantaged populations.
Of the $500 million designated in green job training, the Labor Department set aside:
• $150 million in Pathways Out of Poverty Grants. Eligible applicants include national nonprofit organizations that have networks of local affiliates and other partners and local entities.
• $100 million in Energy Training Partnership Grants for programs that will serve workers affected by national energy and environmental policy, workers who need training to update or transition their skills and the unemployed. An unspecified portion of the funds are for projects that serve communities left stranded by the foundering auto industry.
• $190 million in State Energy Sector Partnership and Training Grants for state workforce investment boards that are working with their state governors to devise a strategy that aligns a workforce vision with state energy policy and green job training on local and regional levels. A portion of this money also will be reserved for communities affected by the auto industry meltdown.
• $50 million to state employment agencies to compile labor market data on the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries -- not only to build an information base, but also to support jobseekers who want to pursue work in green industries.
• $5 million in Green Capacity Building Grants to enable organizations to provide training for entry-level or gateway positions.
More information about the grants, eligibility and application deadlines is available from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration and from www.grants.gov/.
Green for All and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, both based in Oakland, California, and a coalition of other green job advocates in the region were instrumental in lobbying for the training funds and in creating programs that could be used as models.
“This is a huge victory," Green for All founder Van Jones said in interviews and in his blog in February when Congress passed the final version of the Recovery Act. Jones is now the special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Commenting on today’s development, Ella Baker Center spokesman Abel Habtegeorgis told GreenBiz.com in a statement that the availability of training grants puts the country more solidly "on the path towards a cleaner, greener, more equitable America."
“This is a crucial step in the right direction as we continue to work to move this country from a pollutant-based economy -- that benefits some and locks out many -- to one that is sustainable and provides hope, opportunity, and lasting change to the lives of millions looking for decent dignified labor that pays well and saves the environment simultaneously," he said.
The Ella Baker Center had further cause for celebration this week. The first class of Oakland Green Jobs Corps trainees graduated on Monday. Forty young adults completed the nine-month job training program for members of at-risk populations.
"The graduation was truly a historic day filled with hope and inspiration," Habtegeorgis said.
The Ella Baker Center was a guiding force in establishing the program, whose leaders and supporters served as resources for the California Green Corps launched by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in March.