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What Will Clean Energy Jobs Look Like?

April 18, 2019
The Brookings Institution’s new report concludes that more needs to be done to ensure that inclusion is part of this new workforce.

As talk abounds about the clean energy workforce, The Brookings Institution decided to take a closer look at this workforce.

A new report, “Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy Jobs,” found that while the sector’s "green jobs" are good-paying and relatively accessible to those who lack a bachelor's degree, the workforce “consists of older, whiter, and more male than one might hope.”

This conclusion causes the group to advise that “concerted efforts need to be made to reach front-line communities and underrepresented groups,” to ensure inclusion in this workforce.

The report was issued to help energy-sector professionals, state and local policymakers, regional education and training sector leaders, and community organizations get a clearer look at the nature, needs, and opportunities associated with the future clean energy workforce.

“In particular, this analysis aims to explore the extent to which such occupations will offer inclusive pathways to economic opportunity,” the report states.

Using federal datasets and industrial classifications from prior clean energy economy research, this report finds that:

  • The transition to the clean energy economy will primarily involve 320 unique occupations spread across three major industrial sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management. These occupations represent a range of workplace responsibilities, from jobs unique to the energy sector to support services found throughout the broader economy.
  • Workers in clean energy earn higher and more equitable wages when compared to all workers nationally. Mean hourly wages exceed national averages by 8% to 19%. Clean energy economy wages are also more equitable; workers at lower ends of the income spectrum can earn $5 to $10 more per hour than other jobs.
  • Even when they have higher pay, many occupations within the clean energy economy tend to have lower educational requirements. This is especially true within the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors, which include sizable occupations like electricians, carpenters, and plumbers. Roughly 50% of workers attain no more than a high school diploma yet earn higher wages than similarly-educated peers in other industries.
  • Occupations within the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors tend to require greater scientific knowledge and technical skills than the average American job. Conversely, knowledge and skill requirements in environmental management occupations trend towards national averages.
  • The clean energy economy workforce is older, dominated by male workers, and lacks racial diversity when compared to all occupations nationally. Fewer than 20% of workers in the clean energy production and energy efficiency sectors are women, while black workers fill less than ten percent of these sector’s jobs.

The full report goes into greater detail, however the group’s summary statement says that while the transition to a clean energy economy could help address economic inclusion challenges from the national to the local level, the “the current roster of workers in related occupations is far from inclusive— suggesting the existence of distinct barriers to access that require additional attention and action.”

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