Good Jobs Challenge Funding to Build Clean Energy Workforce Training Program in North Carolina

In August 2022, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper joined U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo to announce that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $23.7 million American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge grant to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) to create STEPs4GROWTH, a clean energy workforce training program. 

The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) is pleased to support North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University’s proposal. This project aligns with our mission as a public service center seeking to advance a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating, and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. 

“Through this important project, North Carolina A&T will play a leading role in preparing well-trained workers to fill the many skilled jobs in America’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. 

“This grant project will contribute significantly to preparing the highly skilled clean energy workforce we need to support this growing industry in North Carolina,” explained Allison Carr, Sr. Training Specialist at NCCETC. “The Training Program seeks opportunities like this project to engage with individuals and groups currently underrepresented in the clean energy industry, including minorities, women and military veterans.”

The EDA Good Jobs Challenge grant award will create STEPs4GROWTH, or Successful Transitions and Effective Partnerships for GRowing Regional Opportunities in the Workforce to Harness, a clean energy workforce training program that will start in high school and continue through college. 

“North Carolina is quickly becoming the center of our country’s emerging clean energy economy,” Governor Cooper said during the grant announcement. “This transformative grant will invest in our state’s diverse workforce as we continue to create high paying clean energy jobs and bolster NC A&T’s reputation as a national leader preparing students for the economy of the future.”

“President Biden is committed to expanding career opportunities for more Americans to secure good-paying jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will create a workforce training program for the clean energy sector, providing quality, demand-driven training for workers and a workforce to grow and expand the industry.”

The STEPs4GROWTH program will allow participants to earn certificates and build skills all the way to a bachelor’s degree. It will set up sectoral partnerships in four areas: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Clean Vehicles and Grid and Storage, while establishing regional training centers at Halifax Community College, Martin County Community College, Guilford Community College and UNC Charlotte and Olympic High School in Charlotte.

NCCETC will help develop support networks and receive substantive input on Renewable Energy sector initiatives by convening various stakeholder organizations to design, plan and implement strategies. “With our 20 years of managing educational, professional, and technician training programs, the NCCETC is a valuable resource to serve as training provider and partner for the Renewable Energy and Clean Vehicles sectors,” stated NCCETC’s Executive Director, Steve Kalland.

NCCETC will leverage this experience – focused on buildings, solar energy, renewable energy, and clean transportation – by participating in planning activities and contributing educational activities across the various Clean Energy Sub-Sectors.

STEPs4GROWTH will create quality, demand-driven training for the region’s growing clean energy sector. With a focus on equity, the program will deploy mobile training units across16 economically distressed North Carolina counties to remove barriers to access and deliver training where workers are. STEPs4GROWTH will serve as a national training model for creating a diverse talent pipeline to support the clean energy economy.

“More than 40 employers – including Strata Clean Energy, Enviva, Siemens, Duek and Blue Ridge Power – have committed to hiring 3,000 STEPs4GROWTH trainees over four years, then 1,500 trainees every year afterwards as part of the project,” Carr said.

North Carolina A&T’s portion of the overall $500 million Good Jobs Challenge, which is funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, is the largest among the 32 worker-centered, industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country and is the single-largest award the university has received for research.

Across the country, 32 awardee projects were selected from a competitive pool of 509 applicants. By partnering with stakeholders such as labor unions, community colleges and industry, these projects will solve local talent needs, increase the supply of trained workers and help workers secure jobs in 15 key industries essential to U.S. supply chains, global competitiveness and regional development. Through a holistic, integrated partnership approach, these projects will provide tangible opportunities and security for American workers, focusing on serving and supporting a broad range of underserved communities and connecting workers with the training, skills, and support services needed to successfully secure a good job.

NCCETC is now hiring an additional Training Coordinator to join the team. The new Training Coordinator will be responsible for the implementation, marketing and management of a comprehensive range of clean energy training and education programs across the electric, building and transportation sectors. Learn more and apply online here