Expanding NM's clean energy workforce is crucial - Albuquerque Journal

Expanding NM’s clean energy workforce is crucial

The federal infrastructure package could not come at a more important time. New Mexico needs historic levels of investments to repair and modernize our infrastructure. According to the White House, 207 bridges and more than 3,822 miles of highway are in poor condition across our state, and they estimate that our water infrastructure will need more than $1.4 billion in new funding. We definitely need safer roads and bridges, more efficient transit systems and clean drinking water

We also need to invest heavily in clean energy. We represent labor and conservation organizations, and we are coming together to urge Congress to build a stronger economy by accelerating clean energy projects, while creating good-paying jobs in the process.

New Mexican workers are well-positioned to win in the transition to a clean energy future.

Albuquerque has 310 days of sunshine each year, and New Mexico ranks third in the country for potential wind-generating capacity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified solar installers and wind turbine technicians as two of the fastest-growing careers in the country, so we should do everything we can to leverage our solar and wind resources and bring those jobs here.

Already, more than 12,000 people are going to work in clean energy in our state, and that number will continue to grow. We must make sure everyone has access to opportunities in the clean energy economy, especially in rural and low-income communities, and for workers transitioning from the fossil fuel industry. And we must push for the jobs in solar and wind energy to be union jobs that pay livable wages and come with good benefits. Gone are the days of investing in clean energy at the expense of workers’ pay, safety and well-being.

Last year, the University of New Mexico Center for Social Policy and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions released a report with best practices for a just and equitable transition to clean energy. We echo the report’s call for building on our state’s clean energy and workforce training structure by expanding high-quality opportunities beyond the major population centers, and we fully support efforts to remove other barriers to programs through paid apprenticeships, flexible schedules and online components, all offered in multiple languages. We must also prioritize retaining this newly trained workforce with local hiring provisions for projects in the federal infrastructure package.

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters is prepared to play a key role in our clean energy workforce development. SWRCC has programs across the state providing hands-on training on the best practices and latest technologies to ensure people are fully prepared for the workplace. Additionally, carpenters at Local 1319 in New Mexico have access to a network of 15 state-of-the-art training centers across the Southwest, ensuring they remain on the cutting edge of the industry.

The transition to clean energy creates tremendous economic opportunities for New Mexico and the people working to power our energy future. As President Joe Biden and Congress craft infrastructure deals … they must prioritize clean energy and the workforce development programs that will ensure our communities benefit for generations to come.

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