Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy

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March 25, 2010
By: Sarah White with Laura Dresser and Joel Rogers

As the promise of green jobs has generated a flood of workforce initiatives, most everyone would like to put their hands on an atlas of green programs, skills, and credentials. Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy makes a start in achieving this, focusing on prominent certifications in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The report reaches into a throng of competing skills benchmarks that differ by industry, employer, and training provider, and lifts up leading examples of standardization. These include both established national certifications and local credentialing efforts that could be used as a system model, particularly at the entry level.

But after two years of discussion and research since COWS and partners released Greener Pathways: Jobs and Workforce Development in the Clean Energy Economy, we’ve concluded that developing a comprehensive, comprehensible map of “green” credentials is virtually impossible. And that impossibility motivates our interest in moving toward a more coherent national system.

Greener Skills, our follow up to Greener Pathways, outlines an American skills agenda and calls for a better, stronger, greener workforce system to support it. 

This country needs a far greater political and material investment in workforce development, and skills—particularly at the lower end of the labor market—need to be delivered in very different ways. Greener Skills outlines key early steps toward a national credentialing system, describing the core array of certifications and skill standards for workers in clean energy sectors and providing a set of policy recommendations to help move this work in a more consistent direction. Our purpose, however, is larger: to suggest a more rational framework for human capital development in a greening economy, and to make the case for a national policy of portable, transparent, industry-specific credentials—and state-supported pathways up to them.