Study: Apprenticeships give workers of color a leg up on clean-energy careers

San Gorgonio Pass wind farm

The San Gorgonio Pass wind farm in California's Riverside County. (Photo by Gregg M. Erickson, courtesy of Creative Commons.)

A new study from UC Berkeley’s Green Economy Program shows that joint union-employer apprenticeship programs have helped people of color get training and career-track jobs building California’s clean energy infrastructure.

“Diversity in California’s Clean Energy Workforce” is the first research to address with quantitative data the question of who is getting into jobs and apprentice training programs in the construction of renewables.

Researchers with the Green Economy Program based at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education examined data for the ethnic, racial and gender composition of enrollment in state-certified apprenticeship programs for the electrician, ironworker, and operating engineer unions, which have worked on the majority of renewable energy plants built in California from 2002-2017. 

“Construction jobs in utility-scale renewables are good jobs, so these programs provide workers a path to the middle class,” said program director Carol Zabin.

The significant diversity in renewable construction jobs, according to Zabin and her team, is a result of recruitment by unions and the location of many renewable power plants in Kern County and other areas in Southern and Central California, which have high concentrations of disadvantaged communities.

Read the full news release about the research here