‘The offshore wind industry is poised to create more than 10,000 jobs in New York. That number is only growing as federal, state and local investments fuel the expansion of the sector in the tri-state region and across the country. At this major inflection point, it is critical that New York lays the foundation for an equitable economic transition.’
New York is on the verge of an offshore wind boom.
Last month Gov. Kathy Hochul committed a nation-leading $500 million to scaling the state’s wind energy capacity. Then, within days, Interior Secretary Haaland announced the opening of 488,000 acres in federal waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey for offshore wind development at a leasing auction on Feb. 23.
The offshore wind industry is poised to create more than 10,000 jobs in New York. That number is only growing as federal, state and local investments fuel the expansion of the sector in the tri-state region and across the country.
At this major inflection point, it is critical that New York lays the foundation for an equitable economic transition to offshore wind.
The leaders shaping the growth of this industry in the region—Governors Hochul and Murphy, city, state and federal energy officials, the developers that are already building our domestic supply chain and those that are anticipating the leasing auction this month—must prioritize widespread education, outreach, and training to cultivate the green workforce necessary to deliver on both states’ wind energy production goals.
There is tremendous potential for good wages in the offshore wind industry across every occupation level and skill set—from procurement and administration, to assembly and maintenance, to graphic design and project management, to marine engineering and community outreach. These jobs should benefit not just areas local to offshore wind development, but communities across the state.
However, employers and job seekers alike are experiencing difficulty due to a lack of 1) job seeker awareness about the offshore wind sector, 2) offshore wind specific training, when needed, 3) the marginalization of minority- and women-owned businesses within New York’s clean energy economy.
Underpinning all these challenges is the unknown: many jobs are available right now; many more jobs will not be available for years. But that does not mean we can wait to train up our renewable energy workforce.
Here are four strategies we should either expand or begin to pursue immediately. First, it is critical that the city and state dedicate more funding for training programs at colleges, middle and high schools across New York.
We are seeing a few models of what this looks like. Gov. Hochul’s commitment to fund training programs at LaGuardia and Hudson Valley Community Colleges last month was a step in the right direction. So too were matching city and state grants totaling $3 million for Kingsborough Community College in December. My team at Karp Strategies also worked with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to develop an innovative, free, publicly-accessible classroom curriculum—the Offshore Wind Youth Action Program—designed to engage high school students in the offshore wind industry, including the range of career opportunities it may soon make available to them.
But these important initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg. Training opportunities should be made available across the state—not just in offshore wind supply chain hubs where they are currently clustered, like Long Island, which are inaccessible to many New Yorkers.
Second, state and local governments must work in partnership with employers to ensure a similar availability of continuing education and on-the-job training. Governments should offer grant funding to help developers cover the cost of these programs. Equally if not more importantly, developers should prioritize such investments and be held accountable for doing so. One way governments can drive developers to invest is by requiring private sector matching funds to qualify for grant consideration.
Third, we need to ensure equitable procurement and minority and women-owned business (MWBE) hiring is a priority and requirement for developers. NYSERDA has implemented a framework for this: requiring at least 30 percent MWBE procurement from developers. But we need to extend industry training opportunities to the MWBE contractors ready to do this work, or with transferable skills.
Finally, we should establish more government-sponsored wind energy learning exchanges for businesses that are pursuing work in the sector. Such programs will speed the U.S. toward closing the gap with industry leaders and set local suppliers up to take advantage of the new opportunities.
The NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYSERDA are holding exchanges specific to workforce development, which is promising. National industry organizations like National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium and the Business Network for Offshore Wind have a role to play too, and are already convening industry leaders for important information exchanges.
Now is the time to fulfill the promise of a year that positioned New York to lead the United States in expanding our national wind energy capacity. To do so successfully, we must not only get projects moving quickly, but plan thoughtfully for equitable economic growth as we transition to a more climate resilient energy economy.
Rebecca Karp is CEO of the NYC-based urban planning firm Karp Strategies. Ian Straughter is a director at Karp Strategies who previously served as assistant vice president of workforce development partnerships at the NYC Economic Development Corporation.