To equip Coloradans with the skills they need to obtain jobs in the growing renewable energy sector, Governor Jared Polis signed HB21-1149 into law on June 16, 2021. The bill will also help ensure that employers in the sector have the talent they need long term; it also advances one of the governor’s “Wildly Important Goals:” to transition the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
The bill, informed by feedback from business, education, workforce development, and clean-energy advocates, as well as construction and electrician trade unions, has two provisions: the first requires the creation of an energy sector career pathway by the 2022-23 academic year through a collaboration between the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC), the departments of Higher Education (CDHE), Education (CDE), Natural Resources (CDNR), and Labor and Employment (CDLE), the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), and the Colorado Community College System (CCCS).
The second provision establishes the Strengthening Photovoltaic and Renewable Careers (SPARC) Workforce Development Program which will increase training, apprenticeship, and education programs designed to equip Coloradans with the skills they need to get good jobs in the energy sector. The program will be housed at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and will allocate funding to expand training programs, in consultation with CWDC, CCCS, and the Department of Higher Education.
The bill also expands the definition of renewable-energy occupations, specifically mentioning the electric vehicle industry and green jobs.
“The renewable energy sector is growing rapidly,” said Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada. “We have an opportunity to help our economy grow with it and create jobs resistant to outsourcing. This bill will help Coloradans gain the skills they need to get high-quality jobs in the sector, help employers find the talent they need to grow in the long term, and ensure our collective economic prosperity into the future.”
According to data from LinkedIn, the green economy could create 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030. The company's jobs data also showed that in 2015, the ratio of US oil/gas jobs to renewable/environment jobs was 5:1; today, it's 2:1.
“In an evolving economy, creating a career pathway specific to the renewable energy sector will help Coloradans remain responsive to labor market needs,” said Lee Wheeler-Berliner, managing director of the CWDC. “HB21-1149 will go a long way in helping workers pursue industry-relevant skills and certification, get good jobs, and provide them with opportunities to advance their careers.”
“HB21-1149 recognizes that as the world of work changes, so does education,” said Michael Macklin, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and workforce development at CCCS. “Our community colleges have long been a key driver in workforce training, and these funds will help us remain nimble and responsive to emerging business and industry needs.”
The funding will be used to support programs at four community colleges:
- The Community College of Aurora (CCA) will launch a new academic and workforce pathway in renewable energy and environmental science. Initially, students will be able to gain skills in line with NABCEP Photovoltaic certifications aligned with solar installation, design, sales, and other jobs in high industry demand. Over the longer-term, CCA will build both an interdisciplinary Associate's degree pathway as well as stackable certificates in renewable energy and environment science that map to a four-year degree options to prepare for careers in environmental policy, green energy engineering and systems, environmental justice, and more.
- Arapahoe Community College (ACC) will create a regional Smart-Grid Technology certification as in partnership with industry associations and their members. ACC will focus on training technicians to help develop, install, optimize, and troubleshoot smart-grid technology as utilities continue to move toward a more efficient and intelligent power transmission and distribution model.
- Northeast Junior College (NJC) will strengthen many of its existing programs, including those leading to the following certificates: Industrial Safety, Industrial Control, Industrial Electricity, Industrial Maintenance, and Wind Technician. They will also increase support for their Industrial Automation associate’s degree.
- Pueblo Community College (PCC) will enhance and expand their solar programming, develop electric vehicle curricula, and explore possibilities to include smart grid training.
The bill transferred $5 million from the General Fund to the SPARC Program Fund.
About the Colorado Workforce Development Council
The vision of the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is that every Colorado employer has access to a skilled workforce and every Coloradan has the opportunity for meaningful employment, resulting in individual and statewide economic prosperity. The CWDC’s mission is to enhance and sustain a skills-based talent development network that meets the needs of employers, workers, job seekers, and learners for today and tomorrow. The CWDC's values are equity, agility, and integration. The council was formed under the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and is responsible for the continuous improvement of the workforce system, oversight of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds, and ensuring a statewide strategic vision created from the bottom up through Council members and local partners. The CWDC also publishes the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report each year, which identifies the areas of growing demand and opportunity, key features of the current labor force, and strategies to balance the supply and demand equation for talent.
About the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s (CDLE) vision is to create a working economy that elevates all of Colorado. In pursuit of this vision, the 1,300-person state agency’s six divisions help the state’s employers and workers prosper: employers benefit from CDLE’s work to improve Colorado’s talent pipeline, its recruitment assistance, its economic updates, and more. The agency helps workers with and without disabilities pursue their career goals through job training, job search assistance, and career counseling. CDLE works to help workers, employers, and communities thrive by ensuring fair labor practices, providing unemployment insurance, and protecting Colorado communities through consumer protection and safety programs. CDLE is primarily funded through federal and cash funds. Factors that influence its work and funding include federal legislation, budgets, and the state’s economic health.
About the Colorado Community College System
The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) is the state’s largest system of higher education and workforce development, delivering thousands of programs to over 125,000 students annually through 13 colleges and over 35 locations across Colorado. The System’s open-access mission ensures all Coloradans who aspire to enrich their lives have access to high quality, affordable higher education opportunities. The System Office provides leadership, advocacy, and support to the colleges under the direction of the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE). Join us in changing the way Colorado goes to college www.cccs.edu.