Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy

  • March 25, 2010
  • COWS
  • Sarah White, Laura Dresser, and Joel Rogers

Everyone wants to coax green shoots from the economic badlands. And as the promise of green jobs has generated a flood of workforce initiatives, most everyone would like to put their hands on an atlas of green programs, skills, and credentials. But after two years of discussion and research, we’ve concluded that not only is developing a comprehensive, comprehensible map of “green” credentials impossible, it isn’t worth doing if it doesn’t get us closer to a coherent national system. And that is the central argument of this paper.

We believe current excitement about the new energy economy, and concern about national competitiveness, can be leveraged to finally achieve progress on reforming our fractured education and training system. Not only does this country need a far greater investment in workforce development, but skills — particularly at the lower end of the labor market — need to be delivered in very different ways. The priorities, as we see them, are more organization into navigable career pathways aligned with demand; curricular modularization and credentialing; and the integration of those social service supports necessary for advancement.

Critical to this reform agenda is the development of a national skill credentialing system. This paper makes the case for such a system. We outline an American skills agenda and call for a better, stronger, greener workforce system to support it. We describe what’s out there, focusing on national certifications in renewable energy and energy efficiency. And we conclude with a series of policy recommendations for federal, state, and workforce system stakeholders