Richland, Wash. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz convened a roundtable discussion at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to focus on new approaches and opportunities for training Washingtonians for the high-paying jobs that will close the growing skills gap in the energy industry. The roundtable brought together representatives from the laboratory, higher education, organized labor, regional economic development, as well as students and local elected officials.
The discussion centered on how governments, businesses, education and training organizations can work together to provide the job skills that energy companies will increasingly require in the coming decades. The DOE’s Quadrennial Energy Review found that the energy sector will need to fill 1.5 million new jobs over the next 15 years. A new report from Sen. Cantwell’s staff estimated that 234,000 of those jobs will be on to the West Coast.
“The energy sector is expected to add 1.5 million new jobs over the next 15 years – 230,000 on the West Coast alone. Thriving energy companies are going to need to hire the workers needed to power the future,” said Sen. Cantwell. “It’s critical right investments today to help grow the new energy economy of tomorrow. We must have workers ready to meet the challenges of managing a changing electric grid.”
Despite the demand for skilled workers, there is a significant dearth of employees with the skills to take these high-paying jobs. Three-quarters of energy companies report challenges in hiring qualified candidates. Schools like Walla Walla Community College and labor organizations like IBEW are collaborating with the business community to ensure Washingtonians are positioned to close this skills gap. Cantwell and Moniz were eager to learn how changes in federal policy could facilitate these partnerships.
Senator Cantwell’s staff also unveiled a report documenting the challenges Washington state faces in preparing its workforce for tomorrow’s energy industry. The report highlights the need for increased public and private investment in workforce training and apprenticeship programs. Coordinating resources towards energy job training will not only provide an economic boost to Washington state, but also keep American workers competitive on the global stage.
During the course of the last year, Sen. Cantwell has been working closely with Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on comprehensive energy legislation. The bipartisan energy bill includes provisions to train a new generation of energy workers by establishing a 21st Century Energy Workforce Board that helps develop model energy workforce training curricula by establishing a workforce training grant program.