Building the 21st Century Energy Workforce

The rapidly changing energy profile of the U.S. creates local, regional, national and international opportunities for building the 21st century energy workforce. There is significant job growth potential in a range of energy fields created by new technologies, consumer demand, industry needs, and a growing economy.


The talents of the energy workforce should be enhanced, promoted, sustained and developed in ways that support vibrant communities at the same time they enable the U.S. to compete in the changing global energy marketplace. A recent DOE report documents the significant increase in energy-related jobs and the shift in job growth to clean energy and energy efficiency. However, there are significant disparities on a regional basis between the regions experiencing energy-related job growth and energy-related job losses. EFI will approach the issue of job creation and training through the lens of regional energy innovation ecosystems.

There also are issues with the replacement wage rates for the newly created energy-related jobs relative to the energy-related jobs in decline.

These workforce changes are superimposed on changes driven by other forces, especially IT-enabled technologies and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence promise profound shifts in the nature and definition of work in the years ahead. In addition, deep decarbonization of the American energy sector on a generational time scale will present significant workforce opportunities and challenges.  

The second installment of DOE’s groundbreaking energy jobs analysis identified 2.2 million jobs in energy efficiency, although efficiency jobs are loosely defined. This report concluded that a large portion of domestic manufacturing and service jobs have been replaced by jobs in energy efficiency products and services, and that there is significant potential for additional jobs in these areas.

Data in this report also suggest that efficiency jobs dramatically vary by region and state. A cursory comparison of a state’s percentage of total energy efficiency jots to the state’s population as a percentage of U.S. total suggests possible under- or over-performance in a state or region. This creates the potential for replication of policies and best practices that will create jobs as well as save consumers and businesses both energy and money. 

As new job opportunities are created through innovation, job training becomes a critical path element for ensuring that jobs are filled promptly and effectively. There is a wide variety of strategies and programs for job training, beginning with student outreach and internship programs, flexible and at-distance work programs, job retraining programs targeted to workers displaced by changes in the economy, outreach to special groups, including underrepresented populations and veterans, and knowledge transfer and succession programs to replace retiring workers. 

The federal government has about 50 separate job training programs. In recent years, the Obama Administration placed greater emphasis on early job training programs targeted to new middle-class jobs that did not require a college education, including vocational school rebranding and expanded community college based programs to support apprenticeships with employers. There has been continuing controversy over the fragmented nature of federal job training programs and the benefits of many of these programs. EFI principals are dedicated to improving these training programs and believe that substantial involvement of labor organizations is essential for identifying best practices and helping to create clean energy policies and jobs programs in cities, states and regions.

Initial Projects on Supporting the Energy Workforce of the 21st Century

EFI will write select white papers and meet with stakeholders to discuss and develop projects from several priority options: 

 EFI will focus on job creation strategies, including examination of supply chain jobs supporting the deployment of innovative clean energy technologies. This analysis will be closely coupled with regional innovation strategies linking innovation ecosystems and job creation.

✓ EFI will work closely with organized labor to identify critical jobs analysis, training and education programs, and job creation in under-served communities, and different states and regions.

 EFI will analyze jobs associated with energy efficiency as the “low hanging fruit” that can provide near-term gains for meeting the U.S. NDC at the same time it creates jobs. 

  • Analysis by EFI would more accurately define efficiency jobs as well as identify key policies, programs, and other factors that might be replicated to create jobs, enhance economic performance, reduce emissions and save consumers money.

✓ EFI will conduct analysis of technology readiness, deployment and diffusion pathways and timeframes, and associated employment needs and opportunities.

✓ EFI will work with labor to maximize sustained job creation in an anticipated major public-private infrastructure modernization initiative.