In 1937, the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA), also known as the Fitzgerald Act, was signed into law establishing the Registered Apprenticeship Program as it is today. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were nearly 27,000 registered apprenticeship programs active across the nation in 2021. Both Construction and Energy exist as apprenticeship industries, and we hope to see Solar Technician and Energy Auditor added as high-demand apprenticeship occupations in the near future.
As the U.S. continues on a path toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency measures have proven to be one of the most cost-effective ways to help achieve these goals. Not only has the burgeoning energy efficiency sector helped combat climate change, but it has also created a wide range of jobs, including specialized services like home energy audits and electric service upgrades as well as the design and installation of energy-saving products like insulation, LED lighting, HVAC units, water heaters, and more. According to the 2022 U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs Report (USEER), there are more than 2.1 million workers in the U.S. energy efficiency sector, making it the largest source of clean energy employment.
Workforce Challenges in the Energy Efficiency Sector
Energy efficiency job growth is expected to explode as billions in federal funding become available for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This raises an important question: how do we fill all these jobs?
Companies in the energy efficiency sector are currently dealing with several workforce challenges, including:
- Demand: Record demand for energy efficiency upgrades is outpacing the supply of qualified labor.
- An aging energy workforce: Energy efficiency worker retirements are outpacing the rate of new hiring.
- Lack of diversity: The workforce participation rates for Hispanic, Black, and Asian Americans in energy efficiency are all lower than their respective national averages. Also, the number of disabled individuals in the energy efficiency workforce (4%) lags behind the national average of 5%, per the 2022 USEER.
- Lack of skills: Many energy efficiency jobs require technical skills and knowledge that must be obtained through a combination of training, certification, and on-the-job experience, which can require time and investment depending on the role.
Transforming Challenges into Opportunities through Apprenticeships
Employers dealing with hiring, retention, and other workforce challenges have been increasingly looking to registered apprenticeship programs as a solution. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 13,539 apprentices in the energy industry in 2021 – nearly doubling over the past eight years. Those numbers are expected to grow significantly due to Inflation Reduction Act funding, which offers extra tax benefits to employers that hire qualified apprentices for certain projects.
What are Registered Apprenticeship Programs?
Apprenticeships are a proven way for companies to tap a skilled workforce, offering a work-based learning model that benefits both the employer and the apprentice. Employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, while individuals can get paid to work (with wage increases over time), learn in the classroom for free, and ultimately earn a nationally recognized credential that opens the door to a stable career.
The Advantages of Registered Apprenticeship Programs:
- Higher wages: First and foremost – apprenticeships are guaranteed jobs! Apprentices are paid to work while they learn. Workers who complete registered apprenticeship programs tend to earn a higher salary in their first job ($77,000 on average) than the average entry-level worker with a college degree.
- No student loan debt: Many employers pay their apprentice’s tuition, enabling them to gain valuable knowledge and skills without incurring student loan debt.
- Diversity: Registered apprenticeship programs are designed to reflect the communities in which they operate by promoting diversity, equity, inclusivity, and access. By actively recruiting disabled individuals, for example, apprenticeships offer partnering employers a wider talent pool from which to hire.
- Structure and mentorship: Apprenticeships offer individuals a structured pathway toward progressing in their career under the guidance of a qualified mentor, also known as a “journey worker.”
- Safety and quality: Industry partners provide input on the content of registered apprenticeship program training to ensure apprentices are earning in-demand skills.
- Tax credits: Companies that employ a sufficient number of registered apprentices in qualified clean energy/ energy efficiency projects are eligible to receive extra tax incentives.
- Opportunity to gain specialized skills and knowledge: While traditional forms of learning tend to be more generic, registered apprenticeship programs can tailor an apprentice’s education to their specific job, enabling them to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to their day job.
- Lower turnover and reduced employer costs: Most apprentices hold their positions for multiple years, lowering turnover. This delivers significant cost savings to employers by reducing the need for frequent recruiting and onboarding.
Everblue’s Role in the Apprenticeship Process
As a nationally recognized provider of high-quality energy efficiency and clean energy training, Everblue is proud to play a role in advancing the clean energy workforce. In fact, Everblue’s online solar curriculum was recently approved for teaching through the state’s Solar Technician Apprenticeship Program!
Individuals in Virginia who are interested in beginning or pivoting their careers toward solar energy can take the following courses as part of the apprenticeship program:
- NABCEP PV Associate
- PV201 Solar PV Installation
- PV202 Solar PV Design
- PV203 Solar Sales
- OSHA 30 Construction Safety
Candidates who complete these courses through the Solar Technician Apprenticeship Program will also receive an internationally recognized solar PV credential.
Everblue also helps home energy professionals to become certified home energy auditors with our IREC Accredited Energy Auditor Certification programs, held at our weatherization training center locations nationwide. If the Inflation Reduction Act leads to the formation of an Energy Auditor apprenticeship program, Everblue will be ready to act as a Related Technical Instruction training provider!
To learn more about how Everblue can help you develop your career in clean energy and energy efficiency, give us a call at (800) 460-2575.