Northeast workforce training for offshore wind, distributed solar


With the environmentalist mindset of activist Greta Thunberg permeating across the Generation Z age group, now is the time to promote distributed generation and offshore wind technology careers in junior high school and vocational programs, said a New York conference panel. 

Jeff Andreini, vice president at Crowley Wind Services, a division of Crowley Maritime dedicated to offshore wind workforce development, said the teenage to young adults’ mindset is centered on combatting climate change, and in the process young adults are starting to turn their attention to careers in environmental studies, including renewable energy roles. 

Andreini spoke during Infocast’s NY Energy Summit on a panel titled, “Building the Energy Workforce: Promoting Jobs through Clean Energy Policy,” adding that his daughter recently changed degrees in college to environmental studies. 

“How do we go out and cultivate, nurture young people at fifth grade education right now? At this stage of the (offshore) market, that’s your workforce,” Andreini said. “We don’t have offshore technicians for pre-assembly and construction roles. By the time they’re certified, they will be ready for the market. They need to know there is an opportunity for them at this age,” he said.  

Gary McCarthy, mayor of Schenectady, N.Y., agreed with Andreini, saying distributed technologies and offshore wind training is now permeating into junior high school and young adults in the northern Capitol Region of New York are seeing career opportunities first hand in clean energy.  

In mid-2022, General Electric rebranded its GE Power business as GE Vernova, where McCarthy is mayor of the industrial giant’s headquarter municipality. The Port of Albany was selected over the last two years as the hub for the New York offshore wind assembly market. 

“Tell your story to one or two students each month,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to convey a multi-level approach to a community college or high school, and you don’t see the outcome until you connect with one or two students. These then become assets in the field,” he added about creating a spark with young adults interested in sustainability careers. 

Adam Flint, co-founder of the N.Y. Energy Democracy Alliance, said prior to the Inflation Reduction Act, apprenticeship and prevailing wage activity was “too prescriptive,” with not a lot of capital resource availability. Now with federal funding incentives, grassroots organizations such as the EDA and his Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow (NEST) platform in central New York need to push “clean energy education to communities of all walks of life, especially disadvantaged communities.” 

Richard Lawrence, program director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), an non-profit whose mission is to build the foundation for rapid adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency to benefit people, the economy, and our planet, said his organization works with young adults with climate change on the mind through veterans seeking a career change. 

“If you get seasick seventy miles offshore or don’t want to be dangling 400 feet in the air trying to bolt on a turbine part, there’s information technology (IT) roles for you onshore [to] still be part of this industry,” said Crowley’s Andreini about roles in the expanding renewable energy data and information technology solutions market. 

IREC’s platform provides workforce development resources geared toward understanding where adults’ cross skillsets may align with interest in clean energy or sustainable infrastructure, Lawrence said. IREC accredits training director providers in energy efficiency professions as well, often a launchpad for careers in clean energy. The organization also provides a career map resource, a new data resource for renewable energy careers, while the group continues to pursue traditional avenues such as local business directories, trade associations and business-to-business networks, Lawrence added. 

On March 24, IREC expanded the national SolSmart program in conjunction with the Department of Energy to bring 500 additional cities, towns, counties, and regional organizations into the fold of building 1,000 U.S. markets with solar energy workforces by 2035, to achieve energy equity goals and encourage economic growth.  

Crowley Wind, an affiliate of marine logistics company Crowley Maritime, currently offers paid internship programs during two sessions of the year, Andreini said. Interns complete a 10-week training program where the executive and his team bring young adults to its Providence, R.I. campus, where trainees learn to draft project proposals and visit offshore project sites in the Long Island Sound region, he said.  

Flint’s NEST is a community-based network of workforce programs working towards social, environmental, and economic justice and equity in the Southern Tier region of central New York.  The non-profit group is convening a clean energy job fair on Sept. 27, 2023, in Binghamton, N.Y. Current NEST group initiatives include the construction of a community solar facility in Dickinson, N.Y., in utility NYSEG’s service territory. 

In the solar market, developer Sunation recently launched a solar installer certification program in Long Island with Suffolk County Community College for individuals seeking to enter the rooftop solar and residential to commercial market.  

The NY Energy Summit takes place April 4 to 6 in Albany, N.Y., and features panel discussions ranging from IRA adder updates, community solar developments, to offshore wind, renewable natural gas and green hydrogen. 

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