Workforce Investment in Maine’s New Energy Economy
Policy in Brief:
Robert E. Brown, the executive director of Opportunity Maine and Clifford M. Ginn, president of Opportunity Maine discuss workforce development to create a new energy economy in Maine based on efficiency. By mirroring policies and practices elsewhere, Maine could position itself to take advantage of “green economy” workforce funds and programs.
Building a new energy economy will lower costs for citizens, business, government, and civic institutions while reducing global climate change. In fact, a kilowatt hour saved through efficiency costs much less than one produced through new electricity generation.
By coopting strategies implemented in other states policymakers could:
- Create demand for efficiency and renewable energy through high standards.
- Generate funding within the energy system to leverage private investment.
- Centralize programs and information in a single transparent and accountable entity.
- Invest in efficiency and renewable technology research and development.
- Develop and fund training initiatives and integrate them into industry partnerships to develop the workforce needed to transform the energy economy.
Maine needs a two-pronged approach or it risks economic stagnation while other states capitalize on green energy growth:
- Removal of financial and regulatory barriers for individuals, businesses, and others who want to lower energy costs
- Invest in the skills and education of our workforce to get the job done
Jobs in Green Energy
Access to educational opportunities is the crucial component to growing Maine’s green energy industry. For every green energy auditor, solar thermal installer, or wind technician, Maine will need dozens of electricians, HVAC technicians, engineers, designers, steelworkers, masons, carpenters, plumbers, IT specialists, instructors, administrators, and managers all with green-skills certifications. These skilled professionals all need post-secondary education from certificate programs as well as two-year and four-year degree programs.
Policymakers need to create industry partnerships between stakeholders to determine and provide for workforce needs. Ideally, these initiatives should maximize low-income and disadvantaged workers’ participation to lift Mainers out of poverty.
Training should begin with career and technical education centers, or vocational high schools. These institutions can offer nationally recognized certifications and credentials developed in concert with the needs of the green energy industry.
The creation of a career ladder could then get individuals earning a paycheck while transitioning them to two-year and four-year educational programs. By creating a practical curriculum, workers are more likely to complete their programs and businesses are more likely to get their workforce needs met.
Creating Green Energy Demand
Policymakers should raise energy standards to increase demand for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This will redirect public and private spending to green energy.
If Maine already had the policies, institutions, industry partnerships, and workforce development programs in place, it positions itself to benefit from a flood of private and public investments in the green energy sector, especially when federal stimulus packages are created in the future to advance green infrastructure.
A successful green energy policy initiative would be based on:
- A green-skills career ladder
- Policies that create green energy demand through efficiency standards
- Dedication to renewable energy expansion, especially in wind power
Maine has the opportunity to create jobs, raise incomes, create opportunity for entrepreneurs, lower energy bills, and move towards energy independence through a new energy economy.
Robert E. Brown II is the executive director of Opportunity Maine, an organization promoting economic security and sustainable development with innovative investments in the education and skills of our workforce. With a background in taxation, workforce development, and economic development policy and advocacy, he has worked for several nonprofit organizations in Maine and was recently made a William J. Clinton distinguished lecturer at the Clinton Presidential library and School of Public Service.
Clifford M. Ginn, president of Opportunity Maine, is an attorney licensed to practice in Maine and Massachusetts. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and was an editor for the Harvard Law Review. Ginn has done research and analysis on economic, taxation, corporate governance, environmental protection, civil rights, and other policy issues for a number of publications and organizations.
Brown, II Robert E., and Clifford M. Ginn. “Workforce Investment in Maine’s New Energy Economy.” Maine Policy Review 17.2 (2008) : 80 -83. (Four-pages, Eight-minute read)
From MPR’s Archive:
Dorrer, John. 2014. “Do We Have the Workforce Skills for Maine’s Innovation Economy?” Maine Policy Review 23(1): 65-74.
McDonnell, Joseph W. 2014. “Maine’s Workforce Challenges in an Age of Artificial Intelligence.” Maine Policy Review 28(1): 11-16.
Renault, Catherine S. , Linda Silka, and James (Jake) S. Ward. 2012. “Sustainability and Workforce Development in Maine.” Maine Policy Review 21(1): 120-127.
Davulis, John. 2009. “Maine’s Green Economy: An Overview of Renewable Energy and Energy Effciency Sectors”. Maine Department of Labor. Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information. Center for Workforce Research and Information Documents. 292.
Evans, Dana; Mills, Glenn; and Huhtala, Merrill. 2008. “An Analysis of High-Demand, High-Wage Jobs in Maine,” Maine Department of Labor. Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information. Center for Workforce Research and Information Documents. 264.