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Regions Are the Real Leaders in Climate Resilience

July 20, 2023

At a Glance

Jobs for the Future is partnering with 20 U.S. regions to lead the expansion of quality green jobs.

Contributors Practices & Centers

While it is critical that a response to climate change and its impact on the workforce is coordinated at a national level, regions are leading their own on-the-ground efforts to strengthen regional economies and address the escalating climate crisis.

To support regions in this moment, Jobs for the Future (JFF) launched the Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge to directly invest nearly $5 million in communities to develop and implement regional quality green job strategies. The challenge is part of an initiative by Climate-Resilient Employees for a Sustainable Tomorrow (CREST), a career preparation and reskilling initiative of the Ares Charitable Foundation, which JFF is partnering with to address climate risk and equity to build a green, resilient, and inclusive economy for all.

Today, JFF and the Ares Foundation are thrilled to announce a partnership with a diverse group of 20 regions across the United States to train and prepare individuals for climate-resilient jobs.

These Challenge Members were selected from a pool of 101 applicants based on their proposals, which detailed their ideas for implementing regional green job initiatives. Our Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge celebrates the unique role of regions and regional leaders in fostering solutions at the intersection of climate and workforce development. Over the next four years, JFF will invest nearly $5 million in flexible funding for regional strategies designed to address local climate challenges; climate policy; and social, economic, and cultural factors—essential steps in facilitating a clean energy transition that drives equitable economic advancement for all.

Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge Members

The Transition to a Green Economy Must Support Economic Advancement for All

A just transition to a green economy has the potential to create millions of quality green jobs for members of populations that are currently underrepresented in both quality jobs and green jobs.

As part of JFF’s mission to drive equitable economic advancement for all, the Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge focuses on two foundational priorities: disrupting persistent occupational segregation and developing innovative solutions to eradicate the longstanding Black-white wealth gap. We prioritized proposals that identified strategies for addressing these challenges, which currently curb the impact and growth of the green economy. We also elevated proposals serving rural and Indigenous communities. The transition to a green economy will bring thousands of quality jobs back to rural communities that have faced declines in such jobs for decades.

Why a Regional Challenge?

JFF’s Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge comprises three iterative phases: learning, planning, and implementation. As we progress through these phases, JFF will select the strongest regions to advance and receive additional flexible funding. Importantly, building learning and planning into the challenge design allowed JFF to invite—and select—proposals from regions that are not yet ready to activate quality green job strategies but stand to benefit significantly from an infusion of resources to support climate and workforce innovation. We selected a highly diverse cohort of regions, including those lacking capital to address the effects of climate change. We expect JFF’s initial investments and the regions’ early successes to attract additional necessary investments from public, private, and philanthropic institutions.

1. Learn: $10,000 Participation Grants

Twenty selected regions (Challenge Members) receive grants and form a national learning community to deepen their understanding of regional needs, risks, and opportunities at the intersection of climate change and workforce development.

2. Plan: $75,000 Planning Grants

Challenge Members submit applications for one-time planning grants.

Ten selected regions develop regional quality green jobs agendas describing their strategies for training individuals and placing them in quality green jobs.

3. Implement: $750,000 Implementation Grants

Five regions are awarded implementation grants over three years.

The five winning regions implement their quality green jobs agendas, collectively training 25,000 individuals and placing them in quality green jobs.

A Highly Diverse Cohort of Regional Climate and Workforce Leaders

When selecting Challenge Members to engage in the learning phase, we prioritized geographical, industry, and population diversity.

  • 55% of Challenge Members primarily serve rural and/or Indigenous communities.
  • 35% prioritize quality green job training and placement for young people who are not working or in school.
  • 85% focus on quality green job training and placement for communities that have not previously received equitable green job training.
  • 20% are designing training and placement programs for people who have been incarcerated.
  • All the Challenge Members described regionally responsive innovative solutions to address challenges at the intersection of climate and workforce development.

Individually, these regions will lead the implementation of innovative, adaptive solutions that respond to local needs, constraints, and opportunities. Collectively, the cohort is positioned to recognize, share, and scale effective strategies to shape the growing green economy. Ultimately, five Challenge Winners will be selected from among the 20 original Challenge Members and receive additional funding to train and place 25,000 individuals in quality green jobs, transforming their regional economies and leading the clean energy transition nationally.

Meet the Challenge Members

1. Arizona State University | Arizona

This university-led statewide effort will lean into Arizona’s most abundant natural resource—sunshine—to prepare workers for jobs in solar energy. It will also provide training for jobs in the electric vehicle industry.

2. BlocPower and JobTrain | Menlo Park, California

This nonprofit-led initiative will scale an established approach to quality green job expansion in support of Menlo Park’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.

3. Inland Empire Labor Institute/Plug In IE | Inland Empire, California

This effort will electrify the booming logistics industry to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions and meet the demands of a population expected to increase 20% by 2048.

4. Lyra Colorado | Rural Western Colorado

Lyra will build a talent pipeline for quality green jobs for youth in rural Western Colorado, emphasizing work-based learning and career and technical education pathways.

5. CareerSource North Central Florida | North Central Florida

CareerSource will advance the work of Alachua County’s community-led Project EMPOWER—Energy Modernization for People, Opportunity, Work, Equity, and Renewables—by building a talent pipeline for quality green jobs for underserved communities in North Central Florida.

6. Greater New Orleans Foundation | Southeast Louisiana

The foundation will lead the expansion of industry sector partnerships from the City of New Orleans to the Greater New Orleans region to tackle an array of climate concerns that have intensified since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005.

7. Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) | Michigan, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia

CEWD will partner with the National Urban League to lead a coordinated multistate initiative to expand opportunities for all in the growing energy industry.

8. Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative | Mississippi River Corridor

An association of 103 U.S. mayors will train public administrators across 10 states that already have some foundational climate-resilience capacities.

9. Nevada Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) | Nevada

NCEF will partner with key state offices to provide financial and technical assistance to 5,000 Nevadan workers to support an affordable and accessible clean energy economy.

10. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) | Northern Plains

IREC will partner with the Northern Cheyenne Nation and tribal workforce systems and colleges to design and implement training in the clean energy sector.

11. Newark Workforce Development Board (NWDB) | Newark, New Jersey

NWDB will partner with BlocPower to expand its Civilian Climate Corps, targeting individuals currently underrepresented in green jobs, including women, Black and Brown residents, and justice-impacted individuals.

12. Binghamton University | Southern Tier of New York

Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York higher education system, will lead the 16-member New Energy New York coalition, spanning the private and public sectors, to build out a battery and energy storage hub in the region.

13. The Industrial Commons | Western North Carolina

A leader in the U.S. textile circular economy, The Industrial Commons will use its funding to scale and accelerate its vocational training programs, industry partnerships, and education provider partnerships nationally.

14. Portland General Electric, on behalf of the Oregon Clean Energy Workforce Coalition (OCEWC) | State of Oregon

OCEWC is a group of more than 60 organizations—including major employers, training providers, and local governments—that will launch a pilot program to build energy-sector career awareness and job training and placement opportunities for underserved populations within the construction, energy efficiency, and energy infrastructure fields.

15. Hopeworks | Philadelphia Metropolitan Area

Hopeworks, which takes a trauma-informed approach to its work, will expand technical training and paid work experiences for opportunity youth in high-demand, high-wage green jobs.

16. Sustainable Pittsburgh (PGH) | Southwestern Pennsylvania

With a focus on construction and clean energy jobs, Sustainable Pittsburgh will work with Partner4Work and other partners to expand a coordinated public-private effort to scale existing training programs, supportive services, and employer partnerships, building a strong region-wide ecosystem of equitable job growth.

17. Green Careers Dallas | Texas

With a focus on communities that are food and employment deserts, Green Careers Dallas will expand its existing solar training program to include an earn-and-learn education model and develop an apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor.

18. Utah State University (USU) | Utah

With campuses in every county in Utah, USU will integrate sustainability and climate action into existing curricula and will implement vocational training programs at each of its campuses, with a focus on the trades.

19. University of Tennessee | Tennessee

The University of Tennessee has partnered with 17 local industries and 43 non-industry partners to drive economic development via green jobs, focusing on quality green jobs that require vocational training as opposed to a four-year degree.

20. Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) | Washington

The SBCTC will partner with Washington State Centers of Excellence to develop a statewide green economy certificate program to enhance existing two-year trade programs.

Through CREST, JFF is honored to support and champion the Challenge Members and looks forward to disseminating the lessons they uncover to the broader field. Please stay in touch and follow along as we continue to discover regional quality green job strategies that drive equitable economic advancement for all.

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