Positioning the clean energy workforce to close the skills gap

In a July 8 news release, the National Association of Counties (NACo) cited the workforce skills gap as THE top barrier to economic development in the U.S. With the national unemployment rate still hovering over 6 percent (and much higher in some areas), this is a sobering observation. NACo’s release focuses on collaboration as a key to this conundrum, and IREC couldn’t agree more.

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IREC standards and credentials stress the importance of the marriage between ‘town and gown.’ In other words, the needs of ‘local’ business (how local depends on your market) should be wedded to your workforce training programs. IREC credential holders involve industry in all phases of training program development and implementation, and have assurances in place, including valid student testing, to guarantee that graduates are equipped with current and relevant competencies to fill needed jobs.

Also in July, Vice President Joe Biden released his report, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. In it, he called for training programs to be more ‘job-driven,’ and stated that “Hiring based on industry-recognized credentials reduces search costs and raises productivity for employers.” These are strong statements supporting what IREC and our credential holders have recognized for some time.

In the sage words of our colleague, Dr. Sarah White, “The U.S. cannot build a clean energy industry to scale in the absence of some scheme for assuring the quality of its products and services, which includes measuring and documenting the quality of workers and the institutions that train them.”

High quality, job-focused training is a pillar of the clean energy industry and a crucial contributor to healthy and continued growth. IREC credentials provide a mark that employers and other stakeholders can leverage to reduce their time spent training and guarantee good workmanship, both contibutors to profitability. IREC is in the trenches at conferences and other venues nationwide ensuring that industry understands this link, and that they increasingly seek graduates of accredited training programs, and hire certified instructors to perform in-house training.

Closing the skills gap will take all kinds of smart collaboration: between business and education, credentialing bodies and employers, students and training organizations, and the list goes on. IREC credential holders are already doing their part by listening to industry needs and matching workforce programs to jobs that desperately need skilled workers.

Thank you for your continued collaboration as we work to ensure excellence for our industry.

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