President Joe Biden announced today the launch of the American Climate Corps, a groundbreaking federal workforce training and skills initiative intended to "mobilize the next generation of clean energy, conservation, and resilience workers."
The youth-focused initiative vows to connect more than 20,000 Americans with green career pathways through paid job training and service opportunities tackling climate change. Climate Corps projects will include helping to restore coastal wetlands threatened by flooding, deploy clean energy, manage forests and wildfire zones, implement energy efficient solutions, and more. Additionally, the administration said it will help corps members transition into "high-quality jobs" post-training.
According to the White House, the program specifically focuses on equity and environmental justice, "prioritizing communities traditionally left behind, including energy communities that powered our nation for generations, leveraging the talents of all members of our society, and prioritizing projects that help meet the Administration's Justice40 goal."
Justice40 refers to the administration's goal of ensuring at least 40 percent of certain federal investments go toward disadvantaged communities. Those investments include: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure. No prior experience will be required for most positions, the White House said.
The program is also seeking collaborations with Tribal, State, and local governments, labor unions, and organizations across the nonprofit, private, and philanthropic sectors to develop skill-based trainings for corps members.
"The American Climate Corps, just in its first year of recruitment, will put to work a new diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans doing the important task of conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy – in many cases, distributed and community based – implementing energy efficiency technologies that will cut consumer costs for the American people, and advancing environmental justice so long overdue in so many places," White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi said in a press call Tuesday.
The rise of the "green economy" and both public and private investments in clean energy projects has resulted in an increased demand for accompanying green workforces, often listed as future investments in unveiled climate action plans. According to research from the Brookings Institute, few cities with climate action plans mentioning green job growth also include information on funding and additional support for developing this workforce.
"Hiring and training more workers in the green transition to a cleaner, more resilient economy represents a huge challenge, but also a huge opportunity," the organization notes. "To complete these projects, millions of additional workers will likely be needed in the years to come, on top of the 8 million workers already involved in renewable energy alone; yet the occupations these workers fill, the tasks they carry out, and the training pathways available to them are often poorly defined and addressed across the country."
Meanwhile, climate activists — including youth-led organizations like the Sunrise Movement — have retained pressure on the Biden-Harris administration to stand by its climate pledges, in the wake of several disappointing departures from the climate-focused campaign.
California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington have already launched their own state climate corps programs, and Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Maryland have now announced their own initiatives with support from AmeriCorps, according to the White House.
As part of its larger climate commitments, the Biden-Harris administration will also expand pre-apprenticeship programs through the Department of Energy and Department of Labor, national service opportunities to aid wildfire crisis strategy, and the Indian Youth Service Corps, a program launched in 2022 to provide education, employment, and training opportunities to Indigenous youth participating in conservation projects on public and Tribal land, as well as the Hawaiian homelands.
Those interested in the American Climate Corps program can sign up to receive more information as the program rolls out.
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