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Success Story

Investing in the next generation of clean energy professionals

Interns participate in on-the-job training with Home Energy Life Performance (H.E.L.P.) Group. Photo courtesy of Earth Advantage 

Bringing the benefits of clean energy to customers and communities relies on a skilled workforce available to complete customer projects. However, the current demand for labor across energy efficiency and renewable energy industries far exceeds the available supply. With historically low representation of women and workers of color in the skilled trades, there is also opportunity to build more equitable career pathways that encourage participation from diverse communities.

The World Economic Forum estimates that reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will require 14 million new jobs and 16 million workers to move into clean energy careers by 2030.

The need to address this shortage is especially pressing for Oregon as it seeks to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and for the customers looking to benefit from new funding for clean energy projects from the Inflation Reduction Act and other sources.

That’s why Energy Trust is helping build a pipeline of qualified clean energy professionals in Oregon by supporting workforce development through investments and partnerships with trade organizations.

For example, for several years Energy Trust has worked with nonprofit Earth Advantage to support pre-apprenticeship and youth-based programs with introductory green career training and to sponsor students to attend Earth Advantage’s Sustainable Home Professional (SHP) certification program. These trainings help provide a clear avenue for people just entering the industry to launch a career in sustainable building.

Trainings cover not just the fundamentals of building science, but also cutting-edge practices to upgrade homes and multifamily buildings so they are healthier, more comfortable and have lower energy costs. Participants learn about residential career pathway opportunities alongside sustainability practices like incorporating green building materials, ensuring good indoor air quality and integrating advanced heating and cooling systems.

When former caregiver Abdona Sanchez decided to pursue a new career in HVAC technology, she found support to become a certified installer through Portland YouthBuilders, then completed Earth Advantage’s Green Workforce trainings that focused on HVAC technologies. Since graduating from the pre-apprenticeship, Abdona now works with PeopleReady trades as an HVAC tradeswoman.

Since 2018, Earth Advantage has partnered with workforce and community organizations—with support from Portland Clean Energy Fund and Energy Trust—to deliver workforce development training to more than 850 participants with the goal of bringing younger, more diverse workers into the industry.

In 2023, Energy Trust also sponsored workforce training graduates to the attend the Build Right Conference and set up matchmaking sessions with construction companies and builders, resulting in several people hired into green jobs. Inspired by the success of those in-person connections, a new idea was born to increase access to clean energy jobs statewide.

As a result, Earth Advantage and EnerCity Collaborative, with support from Energy Trust, launched the Oregon Residential Construction Career Hub, an online job board and educational resource that connects workers eager to enter the energy-efficiency industry with employers seeking qualified workers with technical skills.

According to Earth Advantage, most new workers accessing the Hub are individuals from low-income and/or diverse backgrounds who have undergone workforce training through Earth Advantage or another pre-apprenticeship or youth-based partner program. The Hub helps them discover great career paths—not just jobs, but long-term opportunities to grow and make a direct, positive impact in people’s lives.

“There are so many opportunities out there in this space. I’m really interested in pursuing work in energy auditing. I feel like this path could open some really awesome doors in the future, and understanding all of the building science that comes along with that role is really interesting,” said Abasi Umoh, a home energy score assessor with Community Energy Project who previously completed training with Earth Advantage and a pre-apprenticeship with Portland Youth Builders.

Energy Trust is also exploring more ways to create awareness of clean energy jobs that appeal to current and future workers by developing curriculum and training for students and those starting out in their careers.

For example, in 2024 Energy Trust is partnering with EnerCity Collaborative to offer trainings to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) designed to help existing professionals earn industry-recognized certifications, transition into clean energy jobs, and expand their energy efficient service offerings. These trainings will feature curriculum specifically designed by and for BIPOC students and contractors.

Increasing diversity of lived experience among trade workers can be a valuable way to build awareness and trust with communities that have been underserved by Energy Trust in the past.

“To reach all customers, we need to be proactive and intentional about cultivating a more diverse energy workforce that reflect the people they serve and creating equitable opportunities to participate in the clean energy economy,” said Megan Greenauer, Energy Trust communities and new initiatives program manager.