Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Workforce Development and Training Programs

Workforce development and training programs that connect residents to the tools and resources for green careers may be an effective approach to mitigate high levels of existing unemployment while building the foundation for economic resilience. One way to facilitate the growth of a resilient economy is to train workers living in or employed within a specific region in the clean energy sector – especially those workers that have been historically left out of the labor market. Green Collar Jobs, according to the Chicago Green Collar Jobs Initiative, are

“well-paid, career track jobs that contribute directly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality. Like traditional blue-collar jobs, green collar jobs range from low-skill, entry-level positions to high-skill, higher paid jobs, and include opportunities for advancement in both skills and wages. Green collar jobs tend to be local because many involve work transforming and upgrading the immediate built and natural environment – work such as retrofitting buildings, installing solar panels, constructing transit lines, and landscaping.’ They emphasize that ‘spurring the creation of green collar jobs…means building a sustainable economy, where environmental goals go hand in hand with social and economic goals.”See footnote 1 

A group of men and women in bright orange shirts and green hardhats stand outside on a hilltop smiling at the camera.
Graduates of the RichmondBUILD program
(Source: US Environmental Protection Agency)

Workforce training and development programs can encourage those seeking employment with a specific focus on green-collar jobs. To that end, hiring local workers for green-collar positions can help to advance economic resilience within the community. Employing individuals to update, modernize, and retrofit resilient infrastructure creates a more stable workforce, because employees may be able to return to work shortly after an extreme weather event. 

In other words, because there will be less of a delay in return to normalcy after a disaster event, the economy will likely (1) be able to recover more quickly from a shock; (2) be able to withstand at least some shocks; and (3) in some instances, avoid a shock altogether.See footnote 2 Ultimately, this can provide more job stability for the local workforce.

Considerations of Workforce Development and Training Programs for Economic Resilience


  • Funding can come from nonprofit organizations, private entities, and government resources.
  • Green-collar jobs are growing at an astronomical rate — by 2030, “there will be an estimated 40 million jobs in the growing renewable-energy and energy efficiency industries.”See footnote 3 Opportunities are continually opening for individuals looking to enter the field.
  • Green-collar positions also offer job security, due to the amount of training that is often required to enter into the field. “Clean energy companies want and need to retain employees who know what they’re doing and who they can rely upon.”See footnote 4 
  • A majority of green-collar positions involve place-based projects — such as solar panel installation, wind turbine development, and maintenance, etc. — which can provide stable employment opportunities in the communities where the projects are implemented.See footnote 5 


  • Green-collar jobs can include careers in a variety of sectors, including: engineering, financial planning/analysis, construction, science and research, education, masonry, software development, planning, utility operation, and more.
  • Examples of green-collar jobs include: installing solar panels, maintaining wind turbines, planting trees and vegetation, installing rain gardens, operating recycling plants, researching new and emerging renewable technologies, etc.


  •  “Workers in clean energy earn higher and more equitable wages when compared to all workers nationally.”See footnote 6 
  • Clean energy and green-collar jobs statistically pay higher than the national average wage. Even at the lower end of the income spectrum within the sector, employees make $5 to $10 more an hour than employees in other sectors.See footnote 7 


  • Historic inequalities have resulted in a lack of awareness regarding the benefits of green-collar jobs within frontline communities.
  • This lack of awareness can also extend to local business owners, who may be unaware of workforce training programs and their graduates.


  • Certain green-collar jobs, like the installation of solar panels and the operation and maintenance of green utilities, require adherence to local standards, regulations, and requirements.
  • Workforce training programs need to take these rules into account and train participants on how to adhere to sector/job-specific regulations.

Lessons Learned

  • Nonprofits, policymakers, or business owners seeking to implement a workforce development program should leverage funding and financing from several sources in both the public and private sectors. Oftentimes, full funding from a program will come from multiple sources. For example, in some of the case studies analyzed, government agencies have assisted in funding workforce development programs because they help to advance targets outlined in legislation such as Renewable Portfolio Standards.
  • Workforce development tools can be used in conjunction with hiring programs (see next policy option/tool) to encourage economic development within frontline communities.
  • Training in the green-collar field is often incredibly costly and time-consuming. As a result, disadvantaged communities and those without the financial resources to pay for training programs are often underrepresented in this field. To combat this inequity, training and workforce development programs should prioritize individuals from frontline communities for participation in the program.
  • Because of this historical lack of representation in the environmental sector, individuals from frontline communities are often unaware of the benefits that green-collar jobs can bring, including job security and living wage payments. Workforce development and training programs should initially focus on educating frontline communities about these benefits to attract participants.
  • The most successful workforce development programs offer training in a wide variety of sectors, including construction, waste removal, carpentry, masonry, and more. Providing education in a multitude of areas will help attract more program participants.
  • Workforce development programs can also offer hands-on training to implement climate adaptation strategies in some areas, such as solar panel installation and green infrastructure development that includes the care and maintenance of urban forestry to manage stormwater and reduce urban heat (see Natural Resilience Chapter). Providing this type of training advances a worker’s skill/education, and has the added benefit of providing retrofits to homes owned by community members that may not have otherwise been able to afford them.
  • Successful workforce training programs have close relationships and ties with local businesses. Through these relationships, graduates of the training programs are often fast-tracked to jobs with these businesses. Developing these types of relationships is vital to the success of a training program.



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