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Energy Workforce Development

Pennsylvania’s energy market and priorities are evolving rapidly, and with them the commonwealth’s workforce development needs. To position Pennsylvania to lead the nation in clean energy development it is critical that government, industry, and educational leaders understand emerging clean energy workforce needs in real time. Recognizing this, the DEP Energy Programs Office contracted with BW Research to review the clean energy labor market—including a workforce needs assessment in Pennsylvania. The contract, funded through US Department of Energy's (DOE's) State Energy Program (SEP), builds on earlier energy employment reports and resulted in the development of the 2023 Pennsylvania Energy Efficiency Workforce Needs Report.

Supporting and attracting steady, well-paid energy employment in the Commonwealth is essential to decarbonizing Pennsylvania’s economy for a more sustainable future. DEP continues to track employment trends and pursue opportunities to encourage growth and maintain the Commonwealth’s position as a national leader in energy production while combating climate change.

2023 Energy Efficiency Workforce Needs Report: Pennsylvania needs huge growth in efficiency and electrification employment to meet increasing demand.

To help Pennsylvania identify and address its energy workforce needs, this report collected interviews with energy employers and training providers regarding industry trends and studied the demographics, educational requirements, wages, unionization, and growth rate of the following occupations in the efficiency and electrification sector:

  • insulation workers
  • HVAC/R mechanics
  • electricians
  • energy audtiors/HERS raters
  • building performance specialists
  • weatherization technicians
  • plumbers

The findings of this report, summarized below, highlight key challenges that impact the energy efficiency industry and assist PA DEP in developing applications for grant funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act.

Key 2023 Findings

Consumer demand is higher than ever for energy efficiency and building electrification, therefore a robust, shovel-ready workforce is needed to tackle residential energy projects.

  • Pennsylvania will need a significant increase in its energy efficiency and building electrification workforce over the next ten years to meet growing demand, particularly to implement the rebate Home Energy Rebate (HER) and Home Electrification and Appliance Rebate (HEAR) programs funded by the Inflation Reduction Act
  • Models forecast increased energy efficiency and building electrification worker demand amounting to an additional 2,045 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Mechanics and Installers every year for ten years, nearly four and a half times the current average number of employees entering the efficiency workforce each year.
  • This urgency is compounded by unique demographic features of the energy workforce, with a high proportion of those employed being 55 or older.
  • Currently, HVAC/R is the fastest growing employment sector among those studied, increasing the number of employees by 25% since 2015.

Traditional barriers to entry in the efficiency and electrification workforce are relatively low, but other challenges persist that could be amended through thoughtful program implementation and collaboration with employers.

  • Generally, very little prior experience is required for entry-level positions in the efficiency and electrification workforce, between 0-12 months on average.
  • Where additional training is desirable, Employers were more interested in training programs focused on financing, sales, and rebate programs, as opposed to technical training.
  • There are just under 300 unique training programs available in Pennsylvania to provide the education needed for energy efficiency careers.
  • To attract and retain new workers a more comprehensive approach may be needed.
    • Supportive transportation, childcare, healthcare, and reentry programs can remove additional obstacles that might otherwise prevent prospective trainees from pursuing these careers, particularly for adult learners, as well as providing support services directly tied to work and career advancement programs.
    • ​Forging better connections between job seekers, workforce programs, and employers, as well as investing in “wraparound” and career counseling services to support trainees could increase interest in these careers.
  • A small business case management service—which supports small businesses as they look to grow their operations—may help bridge some of the barriers that prevent employers from increasing their staffing to meet the demand they currently experience.

Efficiency and electrification careers are relatively lucrative and stable compared to the overall Pennsylvania workforce. However, a concerted effort is necessary to make sure these career paths are accessible to all.

  • Across all studied job types in the energy sector, the median wage exceeds the living wage for a single adult and for a family of four with two working adults.
  • However, the energy workforce is overwhelmingly white and male. Considering the higher earning potential of these jobs over the median state income, attracting and maintaining a diverse energy workforce can be considered an equity priority that will help meet both the needs of job seekers and the demand for energy upgrades anticipated in the coming years.

Supporting the Clean Energy Workforce to Drive Climate Pollution Reduction

In developing Pennsylvania’s Priority Climate Action Plan (PCAP) for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), BW Research also developed a workforce assessment specific to the needs of the industrial decarbonization grant program proposed under the PCAP. This assessment:

  • Forecasts workforce needs for Industrial Decarbonization activities within the region;
  • Identifies key occupations and skills;
  • Surfaces opportunities for residents of frontline communities;
  • Discusses job quality and high road approaches and the role of labor unions;
  • Highlights relevant organizations and initiatives that are complementary to, and already engaged in, work that supports the activities outlined in the PCAP application

The full assessment is available here.

Additional Resources

2023 U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs Report (USEER) | Department of Energy

2023 USEER State Reports

Links to Prior Reports

2022 Pennsylvania Energy Employment Report
2022 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report
2021 Pennsylvania Energy Employment Report
2021 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report
2021 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Industry Workforce Development Needs Assessment & Gap Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Energy Employment Report
2020 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report