Commentary: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced legislation that will better position New Mexico and the nation’s workforce for good-paying clean energy jobs.
The Energy Workforce for the 21st Century Act was developed with input from the oil, gas, coal, renewable, nuclear, utility, energy-intensive, and advanced manufacturing industries to ensure that states like New Mexico can better prepare students and workers for the energy jobs of the future. The legislation seeks to meet the growing clean energy workforce needs and create a comprehensive strategy at the Department of Energy (DOE) to increase the participation of women and minorities throughout the energy sector. As Sandia and Los Alamos prepare to fill over 5,000 vacancies, preparing New Mexicans to compete for energy jobs is critical.
“As New Mexico becomes a major producer and exporter of wind and solar energy, that will mean thousands of new jobs for rural communities across our state,” said Senator Heinrich. “We need to prepare New Mexicans to work in the clean energy jobs of the future and increase the participation of women and minorities throughout the energy sector. This bill will make sure our community colleges and universities are working closely with businesses and our national labs to prepare workers for good-paying clean energy jobs.”
Senator Heinrich has been a leading advocate for growing the clean energy economy in New Mexico and modernizing the electric grid. His efforts to secure multi-year extensions of production and investment tax credits have spurred major growth in the clean energy industry in New Mexico. The tax credits helped pave the way for major utility-scale wind projects like the Sagamore Wind Project and El Cabo Wind Farm. Each new wind project represents hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and economic impact in rural New Mexico. The tax credits have also helped boost the solar industry, which has created nearly 3,000 jobs in New Mexico, including over 1,000 new jobs in 2016 alone.
Last week, Senator Heinrich was in Albuquerque to announce $51 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for the city to install 54 new renewable energy projects on city facilities. Senator Heinrich also hosted a roundtable discussion in Las Cruces on meeting workforce demands in New Mexico’s growing clean energy industry with Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, city officials, local clean energy businesses, and representatives of Doña Ana Community College, New Mexico State University, and Las Cruces Public Schools.
The Energy Workforce for the 21st Century Act:
Directs the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with other federal partners, to carry out a comprehensive program to improve education and training to for energy and manufacturing-related jobs.
Makes educating and training underrepresented groups for these fields a national priority.
Provides direct assistance in the form of grants, technical expertise, mentorships, and partnerships to community colleges, workforce development organizations, and minority-serving institutions.
Establishes a data clearinghouse to maintain information on training and workforce development programs for energy-related jobs and to act as a resource for schools, workforce development programs, and industry organizations that would like to develop energy-related training programs.
Instructs DOE to collaborate with the Departments of Education, Labor, Commerce, and the National Science Foundation to provide guidelines on skills needed in energy industries.
A copy of the bill is available here.