NYSERDA Panel Reflections: Working Toward Climate Equity in New York
By Mara Cerezo
Did you know that “over 80% of employers who hired clean energy workers in the past year had difficulty hiring due to the incoming talent lacking experience, training, or technical skills as well as industry-specific knowledge”? This important statistic from NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Industry Report was the framing question for a virtual conference that I had the pleasure of speaking at on May 20th, 2020. The event, hosted by NYSERDA, was called: “Exploring Workforce Development Needs and Resources for a Decarbonized Built Environment”.
New York State has a number of ambitious nation-leading climate goals; the focus of this conference was the roadmap to carbon neutral buildings as the state works toward having carbon-free electricity by 2040. Many of NYS’s climate goals rely on new technologies which means the workforce of the future must have an appetite to continue learning rapidly evolving tools and skill sets to keep pace with labor market demand.
Green City Force was invited by NYSERDA to participate in this important discussion because of our track record with clean energy training and careers for young adults. We were proud to be featured alongside: Jeff Vockrodt, Climate Jobs NY; Ellen Honigstock, Urban Green Council; Gary LaBarbera, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; and Mark Bremer, SUNY Poly. It was an exciting opportunity to hear about the labor unions’ role in carbon neutral buildings and to foster collaboration on increased access to the trades for typically underrepresented groups – particularly the young adult NYCHA residents whom we serve.
When we engage with labor union leadership, we share the important role that GCF operates in, which is the pre-pre apprenticeship space – a special place of career exploration and interest building. Green City Force provides our young adult participants with an entry point to have legitimacy and agency in developing all the essential workplace skills, earning baseline industry-recognized credentials, and completing hands-on training while engaging as a team to complete service activities in communities that are typically underserved. It is this unique experiential learning that is the platform and entry point to access quality jobs of the future that will help New York reach its climate equity goals.
We know that it’s not just about that one job, it really is: how do you gain enough knowledge and exposure to understand that a single green job can lead to a full career path? As a whole New York’s workforce community needs to embrace the path it takes to build interest, boost skills, and foster connections in order to formulate a career. Partnership is key in bridging access gaps. Getting Green City Force in the rooms (or virtual conferences) with the right people can make a difference. We want to be able to fully structure and systematize paths into the skilled trades. We want to be working together to build social, environmental, and economic equity in New York.