In May 2015, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced “The 21st Century Energy Workforce Act” in the Senate. The proposed bill is designed to accomplish two things.
First, it would establish a National Center of Excellence for the 21st Century Workforce, a nationwide advisory board for the development of a skilled energy workforce. The board would develop job-training programs and standards for educational curricula as well as for career placement in both the traditional and clean-energy sectors. The National Center of Excellence would include representatives from the federal government, the energy industry, labor organizations, state and local governments, and K–12 and postsecondary education.
Second, the legislation would create a competitive grant program to provide job training in the energy industry to help students obtain industry-recognized credentials. The grant program would be open to public and nonprofit organizations with an advisory board of representatives from labor, industry and education. Grant applicants would be required to demonstrate experience in job-training programs and the ability to provide an industry-recognized credential to students who successfully completed the program.
“The 21st Century Energy Workforce Act is a major step forward in helping our nation meet the skilled worker shortage looming over the energy industry,” said Edwin D. Hill, former president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). “For more than half of a century, joint union/employer apprenticeship programs have been the largest and most effective trainers of skilled utility and energy-sector workers in the United States. By giving these programs the same standing as community colleges and other educational institutions when it comes to qualifying for federal job-training grants, Congress is finally recognizing what energy-industry leaders have known for years—that our graduates are the best-trained and most qualified workers in the entire industry.
“The energy industry will require more than a million new skilled workers over the next 15 years, and the IBEW, along with our utility partners, are ready to work with federal officials in meeting this challenge,” Hill said.
Hill retired on June 1, 2015.