Adaptable, creative workforce will be key to achieving full potential of federal climate funds

(ACEEE blog, 20 Apr 2023) Recent legislation has dedicated historic levels of funding to climate change mitigation through energy-efficient technologies, retrofits, and decarbonization. As a result, enormous changes are possible in our buildings—how we design, build, heat, cool, and use them.

But this can only happen with a qualified workforce: the buildings industry needs enough boots on the ground who know how to do the complex work of creating, operating, and maintaining these buildings and the equipment inside (and outside) them. Even today—with rising interest, demand, and incentives for heat pumps nationwide—we do not have enough qualified contractors who know how to size, install, and repair heat pumps and heat pump water heaters in American homes. This is a microcosm of a more significant problem and will impede our progress toward building decarbonization.

The size and capabilities of our workforce may be the single biggest obstacle to achieving the full potential of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Yet there are many possible pipelines to creating this workforce, including four-year colleges, community colleges, labor unions, and apprenticeship programs. These have long been engines of workforce development in the United States.

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ACEEE blog, 20 Apr 2023: Adaptable, creative workforce will be key to achieving full potential of federal climate funds