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Meet Your Future Employees – The Next Generation of the Energy Efficient Workforce

  • Written by Amy Opheim
  • June 12, 2024
Multi-ethnic group of college student friends take selfie photos with cell phone after graduation ceremony.

Employment in the energy and utilities sector is growing faster than the average for all other occupations, with a growth projection of 8% from 2020 to 2030. Current estimates predict the addition of 2.4 million jobs in the energy sector during the same time period and renewable energy roles will see the greatest growth, particularly in the EV, battery storage, and solar energy sectors.

This growth is funded in no small part by investments stemming from the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) Workforce Development Provisions, intended specifically to train future workers for careers in industries including clean energy. The provisions include the State-Based Home Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Grants program, which reduces the cost of training for employees and contractors while ensuring a diverse and qualified workforce prepared to support the shift toward clean energy. The IRA also provides tax credits to employers in clean energy industries who offer apprenticeship programs, investments in community college and vocational training programs, and support for workforce development programs in underserved communities.  

With such drastic growth predicted and supported in the electric, geothermal, wind, water, and solar arenas, clean energy careers are plentiful and lucrative. Employers are seeking talent to fill roles as wind turbine technicians and solar installers, energy storage engineers, clean energy efficiency consultants, and more. 

In support of this clean energy career boom, dozens of universities across the country, ranging from Columbia and the University of Michigan to Arizona State and UC Berkeley, offer bachelor’s degrees in renewable energy as well as the chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering degrees that have traditionally prepared students for clean energy jobs.  

The Oregon Institute of Technology was the first university in North America to offer a B.S. degree in Renewable Energy Engineering in 2005 and other schools have followed suit. For example, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Clean and Renewable Energy Option Electrical Engineering BS “prepares students to develop and implement solutions that reduce, prevent, or mitigate serious environmental threats to our planet.” Cal Poly Humboldt offers a B.S. in Energy Systems Engineering focused on planning, designing, building, and operating energy-related systems. And graduates of the Engineering Science Clean Energy MS program at the University of Buffalo will enter roles as design, field, plant, and utility engineers; energy auditors; renewable energy system integrators; energy planners; and other positions. 

Online programs and certificates are also available. For example, Stanford Online currently offers professional and graduate certificates including Clean, Renewable Energy & Storage for a Sustainable Future; Strategies for Sustainability; The Role of Water and Energy for Circular Economies; and Economics of the Clean Energy Transition. SUNY Canton’s online offerings include a Sustainable Energy Technology program with courses in sustainable building, renewable energy electrical code, fuel cells, wind turbines, solar energy, and others. 

In addition, many community colleges are offering clean energy and sustainable technology training programs. These programs include associate degrees in Energy and Sustainable Technologies as well as certificates in solar, wind, geothermal, and sustainable energy. Two-year programs include the technician program at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago, which trains students to work on electric vehicles; the New England Institute of Technology’s Electrical Technology with Renewable Energy Systems A.S.; and Central New Mexico Community College’s electrical trade courses teaching students to wire, install, and repair solar panels; among many more. 

With the astronomical growth of the clean energy industries, federal funding for training and apprentice programs, and an abundance of renewable energy educational opportunities, employers are well positioned to fill their clean energy engineering openings.