Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Workforce Development

What are Clean Energy Jobs?

Clean Energy Jobs Many organizations have put forth different definitions of green jobs. The following definition is provided by the White House Middle Class Task Force:

“Green jobs are jobs that provide products and services which use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, conserve energy and natural resources, and reconstitute waste.”

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their definition of green jobs, stating that green jobs are either: jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

Clean energy jobs are a subset of green jobs—those related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean combined heat and power (CHP). Examples of clean energy jobs can include:

  • Energy auditors
  • Insulation and weatherization technicians
  • HVAC technicians and installers
  • Wind energy technicians
  • Solar photovoltaics or solar water heating installers
  • Manufacturers, distributors, and salespeople of energy efficient products
  • Low carbon (or clean energy) transportation planners, manufacturers, refiners, or technicians
  • State energy and/or environment office staff

Top of page

How Does a Local Government Develop a Clean Energy Workforce?

The aim of developing a clean energy workforce is for local demand for qualified workers to match the supply of open jobs. Basic guidelines for developing an effective clean energy workforce include the following:

  1. Promote clean energy policies, which are needed to develop and expand the market for services and businesses, and therefore jobs.
  2. Identify current and future projections of business and labor market status to determine gaps.
    • Leverage U.S. Department of Labor statistics related to industry and labor market data, and competency models Exit EPA disclaimer to understand the skills needed to work in various sectors.
    • Contact your local department of labor to determine if projections exist for your area.
    • Convene local industry meetings to identify specific skill gaps in your region and for your employment base.
  3. Facilitate partnerships across workforce development entities.
    • Leverage potential partners that already exist, such as local one stop career centers, community colleges, vocational high schools, workforce investment boards, chambers of commerce, mayors’ offices, local unions, and related NGOs. State and local agencies (departments of labor, energy offices, commerce/economic development offices) might be helpful, as well.
    • Create sector-based collaboratives to identify what efforts are needed in a specific target sector to train and employ workers.

Top of page

What Certifications are Used?

Although no national certification standard exists, the following certifications are currently used by many states to identify and train qualified workers:

In the renewable energy training field, accreditation for training providers is also available through the Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ) Exit EPA disclaimer. Providers that receive ISPQ accreditation have undergone a rigorous application and audit process, and their course content follows an industry task analysis.

Top of page

What are Local Governments Doing?

Common strategies for developing clean energy workforce development programs include:

  • Working with established universities, community colleges, and vocational/technical high schools to integrate clean energy workforce training into existing curricula and programs.
  • Engaging employers, job seekers, and job trainers in the development of workforce programs that will prepare workers for emerging green jobs related to sustainability, natural resource conservation, and environmental technology.
  • Tailoring programs for low-income workers (e.g., Pathways out of Poverty).

Unique approaches to clean energy workforce development include:

  • Authorizing community colleges to issue bonds on behalf of businesses that create green jobs—with the money used to support training for new jobs and related program administrative expenses (e.g., Iowa New Jobs Training ProgramExit EPA disclaimer)
  • Developing regional workforce response teams that can cater to unique conditions and energy opportunities within regions of a state (e.g., Oregon Workforce Response TeamsExit EPA disclaimer)
  • Connecting low-income inner-city residents to union apprenticeship and community college training programs that prepare them for living wage jobs in building trades and energy-utility industries (e.g., Los Angeles Green Careers Training Initiative Exit EPA disclaimer, Richmond BUILD Exit EPA disclaimer).

Top of page


State Technical Forum

General | Energy Efficiency | Renewable Energy


Clean Energy Workforce Conference

The annual New Ideas in Educating a Workforce in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Conference Exit EPA disclaimer took place in November 2009 and March 2008. Posted presentations cover market trends, economic drivers, instructional strategies, curricula development, and best practices for training.

The annual Clean Energy Workforce Conference Exit EPA disclaimer covers market trends, economic drivers, instructional strategies, curricula development, and best practices for training.

Community Colleges and the Green Workforce

Going Green: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in Building a Sustainable Future and Green Workforce Exit EPA disclaimer examines the growing role of community colleges in the clean energy economy. The report provides examples of innovative strategies used by community colleges, information on the fastest growing sectors in the green economy, and additional resources.

Green Workforce Strategies

Occupational Competency Models

A competency model Exit EPA disclaimer is useful to organize the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform in a particular occupation or industry. Competency models form the foundation for developing curriculum and selecting training materials, and for licensure and certification requirements, job descriptions, recruiting and hiring, and performance reviews.

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)

SOC is used by federal and state agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data.

U.S. Department of Labor Resources

Energy Efficiency

Recovery through Retrofit

In 2009, Vice President Biden asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop a proposal for federal action that builds on the foundation laid in the Recovery Act to expand green job opportunities and boost energy savings by making homes more energy efficient. CEQ has been facilitating a broad interagency process with the Office of the Vice President, 11 Departments and Agencies and six White House Offices to develop recommendations. These recommendations are described in the Recovery Through Retrofit Report, along with an Implementation Plan for executing the recommendations.

Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center Training Resources

The Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program Exit EPA disclaimer has documented core competencies for weatherization workers in various job positions and has developed standardized curricula that can be used by training facilities across the country. DOE also tracks training opportunities for weatherization.

Training Guide for Home Performance Professionals

Home Energy magazine publishes an annual guide (PDF) (7 pp, 1.68M) Exit EPA disclaimer to training opportunities for job skills needed for work in weatherization, home performance contracting, home energy rating, national and local green building programs, and other related programs. Updated versions are available to subscribers.

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy Training Best Practices

The Renewable Energy Training Best Practices report (PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer (25 pp., 283K, About PDF) by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council recommends training guidelines, training criteria, assessment tools, task analyses, credentialing programs, and other resources for renewable energy training programs.

Renewable Energy Training Catalog

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) tracks certified renewable energy training providers in its Renewable Energy Training Catalog Exit EPA disclaimer. IREC also tracks information about four-year universities Exit EPA disclaimer that are offering undergraduate and graduate courses in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Courses can be searched by state, technology or both.

Solar Installer Instructor Training network

The Solar Installer Instructor Training network was launched in October 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to address a critical need for high-quality, local, and accessible training in solar system design, installation, sales, and inspection. Solar Installer Instructor Training is a five year effort intended to create a geographic blanket of training opportunities in solar installation across the United States.

Top of page

Jump to main content.