The Wolf administration announced a $2.5 million grant program Friday to boost the state’s clean energy sector as it tries to rebound from COVID-19 job losses.
Five Clean Energy Workforce Development Grants of up to $500,000 will promote overall industry recovery from the pandemic. The state Department of Labor & Industry invites local workforce development boards to submit project proposals that would support at least 25 local or regional clean-energy businesses.
Proposals are due March 14; the projects will kick off in July and continue through June 2025.
A report last year from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that the state, which is a manufacturing hub for wind, hydro turbine and Energy Star products, shed 13,200 clean energy jobs between March and December 2020 because of the economic fallout from COVID-19.
As the industry bounces back, skilled workers within the clean-energy sector are increasingly in demand. Even prior to the pandemic, at the end of 2019, eight in 10 clean-energy employers in Pennsylvania reported difficulty in locating qualified applicants, a release noted. Lack of experience and industry-specific knowledge were the main reasons.
More skilled fabricators, assemblers and other manufacturing workers are needed, as well as construction and installation workers such as heating, ventilating and air conditioning mechanics, electricians and solar photovoltaic installers.
The clean energy industry includes the technology sectors of energy efficiency, clean energy generation, alternative transportation, clean grid and storage and clean fuels. Among the subsectors are solar, wind, efficient lighting, hydropower, smart grid, electric vehicles, and biomass fuels.
“This investment in the clean-energy sector’s workforce is an investment in the future of Pennsylvania,” Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in the release. “While its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is well under way, this is an industry that the Wolf administration wants to see thrive over the next decade. We need to be developing a talent pipeline now to make that vision a reality.”