Emily Andrews is director, education, labor & worker justice, at the Center for Law and Social Policy; Kristen Bennett, is CEO of Service Year Alliance; Kevin J. Coyle is counsel to the president and CEO at the National Wildlife Federation; Trevor Dolan is communications and policy research manager at Evergreen Action; Kaira Esgate is CEO of America's Service Commissions; Karishma Merchant is associate vice president of policy and advocacy at Jobs for the Future; and Mary Ellen Sprenkel is President & CEO of The Corps Network, representing the Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps.
With the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress has made a substantial down payment toward building a more resilient America by investing in clean energy technology, public lands, forests, and other resilience and mitigation projects.
Unfortunately, a critical element was missing from these landmark laws: An equally robust investment in the workforce to fill these jobs and help us meet our ambitious climate goals.
It’s estimated that 23 million new green technology jobs will be created as a result of these new infrastructure laws — but we have yet to invest in developing the talent to fill these positions or develop skills for careers in these fields. This represents an opportunity to develop additional apprenticeship pipelines and add racial and gender diversity to the clean energy and construction sectors.
These economy-boosting investments in resilience and infrastructure must be paired with substantive resources alongside national service, AmeriCorps, workforce and labor programs to catalyze a new generation of Americans that can diversify the workforce while achieving our energy, mitigation and resilience goals.
This idea is not new and has proven to be effective. Like in previous generations, we must make a similar federal investment in national service and workforce development to fight disasters, weatherize homes, reduce emissions, and create more resilient communities and infrastructure. But this time we can do it better and more equitably, ensuring that youth of all backgrounds have access to these career pathways.
The idea is popular, too. When dozens of members of Congress called for the creation of a 300,000 member Civilian Climate Corps, the measure gained tremendous support. And best of all, young people were eager to get involved. Broad bipartisan agreement continues with new polling showing a majority of Americans support establishing a new corps.
That’s why we’ve formed the Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps — a nonpartisan collection of approximately 100 service, clean energy, conservation, labor, workforce and environmental justice organizations advocating for an investment in a national service corps to address climate resilience and mitigation, while preparing the next generation for good-paying careers and apprenticeships in conservation, disaster resilience, and the rapidly growing clean energy economy.
This vision is already being realized across the country. States like California, Maine, Colorado and Michigan have created programs to mobilize youth to undertake projects in local communities and create pipelines into apprenticeships and good-paying jobs in local in-demand industries.
Beyond these new state-driven efforts, there are hundreds of service and conservation programs that have been at work across the country for decades. From Montana to Maine, bipartisan leaders are spearheading projects that meet local community needs. Programs like Rural Action's Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps in Southeast Ohio are helping to educate youth and the public, preserve environmental resources, and support economic resilience through mitigation and sustainability projects. And in Colorado, Mile High Youth Corps focuses on energy and water conservation to put youth from diverse life experiences on pathways to careers.
But it will take more than just cross-sector leaders and state-by-state investments to meet environmental needs and train the next generation. If we are to succeed in building the workforce of tomorrow, we need executive action from the White House, federal agency coordination, and funding commitments from the White House and Congress.
The Biden administration has an opportunity to fulfill the promise of their original executive order to bring this idea to life. Continued White House executive action establishing an interagency taskforce and federal advisory committee to galvanize, organize and implement a modern, equitable service corps will help drive the path forward.
Federal agencies should also look to utilize their Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure funds for national service — establishing interagency agreements with AmeriCorps to mobilize youth in service and workforce development projects that meet agency priorities, tackle environmental challenges and put the next generation on pathways to careers and apprenticeships in high-need green industries.
Finally, the White House and Congress must do their part — answering our Partnership’s call for robust FY24 appropriations for AmeriCorps and the Department of Labor for resilience and mitigation-focused efforts.
The time is now. We must leverage effective strategies to engage the next, more diverse, generation and put them on pathways to good-paying jobs in our rapidly growing clean energy and resilience sectors. This partnership is committed to seeing the promise fulfilled.