As debate began on a comprehensive energy bill, the Senate today adopted a job-training proposal by Senators Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
The measure would authorize resources to train workers for "green collar jobs" that involve the design, manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance of technologies associated with energy efficiency and renewable, clean energy options. It also would authorize research on labor market trends.
"One way to slow global warming is to use energy in a smarter way. An effective and economical way to cut consumption is to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. Trouble is, today you would have a hard time finding workers qualified to do the job," Sanders said. "If we're smart, we can help people make their homes and offices more energy efficient and in the process create millions of good-paying ‘green jobs.' "
"To attack global warming, we need to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy," said Senator Clinton. "Deploying these technologies is a win-win that will reduce pollution and create new, good-paying jobs. This important legislation will help to train workers to meet the needs of the growing clean energy sectors of our economy."
The Senate adopted their amendment by a voice vote after Sanders told colleagues why the program is necessary. "In Vermont," he said, "if a family wants to weatherize their home, it can take up to two years to make it happen because there are not enough workers out there. The same thing goes for installation of solar panels or wind turbines. The widespread adoption of these technologies is being stopped in its tracks because we simply don't have enough people to do the jobs."
A study last year by the National Renewable Energy Lab identified the shortage of training as "a leading non-technical barrier to renewable energy and energy efficiency growth."
Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Public Citizen, The Sierra Club, The Union of Concerned Scientists and other environmental groups backed the amendment. So did labor and business groups.
The National Association of Energy Service Companies, American Solar Energy Society, American Wind Energy Association, Renewable Fuels Association, and Solar Energy Industries Association wrote that "across the country, our companies experience workforce shortages as one of the key barriers to growth. By establishing a pilot program specifically geared toward the renewable energy and efficiency industries, the Sanders-Clinton Amendment would enable us to build the workforce our industries need to achieve their maximum potential."
The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental and other groups, as well as the AFL-CIO also supported the measure.
"As Congress advances programs to enhance our energy security and address global warming, workforce shortages are emerging in the utilities sector that could stymie growth of the renewable energy and efficiency industries," Apollo Alliance President Jerome Ringo said. "According to the American Public Power Association, half of current utility workers will retire within the next decade. However, our nation is not training enough new workers to fill their places."
To read a summary of the amendment click here.
To read the bill click here.
Letters of support: