California Kicks Off $75M Green Jobs Training Program

California Kicks Off $75M Green Jobs Training Program

Solar panel installation -- CC licensed by Flickr user Wayne National Forest

California is making a $75 million down payment on what is being touted as the nation’s largest state-sponsored green jobs training program.

Paid for in part with stimulus funds, the Clean Energy Workforce Training Program aims to prepare 20,000 California adults for a range of green collar jobs, such as green building design, solar panel installation, and sustainable landscape, among other professions.

Local workforce investment boards, community college districts and individual community colleges are eligible to apply for the funds, a boon for an education system that has seen its enrollment swell while funding has shrunk. The California Community College system’s enrollment grew 4.9 percent during the 2008-09 school year. Meanwhile, funding from the state was slashed by $840 million for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 years combined.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the program last week at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College, a school that adopted a Green College Initiative in 2006 and offers 52 green-oriented classes in topics such as solar energy systems, weatherization, alternative fuels and refrigeration.

“We need more construction workers to build cogeneration units, we need more mechanics to service the next generation of clean alternative-fuel cars,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a speech announcing the initiative. “And our program will train the people to fill this type of green jobs that are in demand now. We will target students, also dislocated workers, anyone that wants to go to work. And for us what is important is that people can make a living, get to work and feed their families.”

The new program builds on others underway in California. In late June, Gov. Schwarzenegger awarded $20 million in grants to a statewide Green Job Corps Program targeting at-risk youth, modeled after Oakland's Green Job Corps program. The Oakland program celebrated its its first graduating class in late June, with roughly 40 people receiving college credit from Laney College.

Green jobs programs are also beginning to blossom outside the state. IBM, for example, partnered with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Neb., for a two-year associate's degree program focused on designing and managing green data centers.

Green jobs investment is already paying dividends to the Golden State, the governor said. He claimed clean energy policies led to the creation of 10,000 new businesses and 125,000 jobs in 2007, but job losses since then have pushed California's unemployment rate to 11.9 percent in July, a modern-day record.

A solicitation for proposals for the Clean Energy Workforce Training Program was issued Aug. 6, with a Sept. 16 deadline. Recipients will be announced in October.

The Clean Energy Workforce Training Program is a partnership of several entities, including the Green Collar Jobs Council, California Energy Commission, California Employment Development Department, Employee Training Panel and the California Workforce Investment Board. It draws funding from a variety of state programs, in addition to $20 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Wayne National Forest.