New Guide Charts Path to High-Road Clean Energy Jobs

San Francisco — As the Biden-Harris administration looks to create good union jobs and tackle climate change at the same time, a new guide charts how cities can incorporate workforce development and equity goals into their climate action plans.

Developed by Inclusive Economics on behalf of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, the High-Road Workforce Guide for City Climate Action includes a step-by-step guide for cities to pursue high-road workforce development as well as examples of best practices of cities to engage qualified, diverse local workforces to meet their climate goals.

“High-road workforce development is about ensuring that the jobs created to fight climate change are high-quality career-track opportunities and that they are accessible to workers historically excluded from quality jobs,” said Betony Jones, Inclusive Economics founder and guide author. “High-quality jobs provide wages and benefits that can sustain a family. When we focus only on training, we can flood the labor market with minimally-qualified workers and drive wages down. So this guide isn’t about how to train more solar installers—it’s about creating the market conditions that lead to good career opportunities and stronger worker voice on the job as we tackle climate change in cities.”

Local efforts to increase demand for qualified, diverse local workforces include:

  • Requiring projects receiving incentives or subsidies to provide family-sustaining wages and benefits, such as the City of Denver requiring prevailing wage on all city-funded projects greater than $2,000, piloting a construction careers training program that prioritizes participation of individuals from underserved communities, and developing a climate jobs strategy to grow good jobs and improve access to them
  • Negotiating project labor agreements and community workforce agreements, such as a Boston Housing Authority project labor agreement that created 600 jobs for local union workers and public housing and low-income city residents and helped establish a free, six-week pre-apprenticeship program to connect those underrepresented in the construction industry with opportunities in the building trades
  • Adopting skill standards for workers building out new infrastructure, such as the City of Columbus using Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) certified electricians to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Local efforts to train and diversify the local clean energy workforce include:

  • Investing in pre-apprenticeship programs for underrepresented populations, such as an earn-and-learn program developed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in which entry-level trainees weatherize homes and small businesses while learning skills and preparing for civil service exams and career opportunities
  • Funding organizations that provide wraparound and comprehensive support services, such as the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia, which won a grant to train returning citizens in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems while also providing support services
  • Expanding the SEIU United Service Workers West and US Green Building Council’s Green Janitor Education Program that trains and certifies commercial building janitors in energy and sustainability practices in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Denver, and Washington D.C. 

“Bold climate action is creating high-quality jobs across the country, and cities are at the forefront of this change,” said Kelly Shultz, lead for sustainable cities and America Is All In at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “The High-Road Workforce Guide helps ensure these job opportunities reach historically disadvantaged communities who are on the front lines of climate change, and that no one gets left behind as we transition to a more sustainable future.”

“Cities tackling climate change rely on the local labor force for everything from installing electric vehicle charging stations to reducing energy use in buildings,” said Caroline Keicher, buildings and energy policy advisor on the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. “By structuring climate investments to create good, career-track jobs with family-sustaining wages and prioritizing those jobs for people who need them most, cities can ensure that their climate progress serves the whole community. This guide can help cities deepen their positive impact by leveraging climate action to address inequities that have long existed in the labor market.”


Inclusive Economics is a mission-driven consulting firm providing customized economic research, strategy, and policy advising to grow an equitable green economy. Inclusive Economics engages with organized labor and community-based organizations to build and diversify political will to move further faster on climate policy. Inclusive Economics is a national partner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. Visit us at

The Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge is an initiative that empowers 25 of the largest U.S. cities to implement near-term climate goals and become primary drivers of progress towards meeting America’s pledge on climate. Recognizing that cities account for more than 70% of global carbon emissions – and that mayors have significant authority over cities’ highest emitting sectors: transportation and buildings – the Climate Challenge aims to enhance
the work already being done by mayors across the U.S. and to support cities in the fight against climate change.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​


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