Workforce Bill Targets Society, Industry, Economy

Workforce Bill Targets Society, Industry, Economy

This piece was originally published in the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL)

windfarm power is the future

In February, H.R. 4583, an act to promote a twenty-first-century energy and manufacturing workforce, passed the House with overwhelming support. This jobs bill, which I sponsored, directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize training underrepresented groups such as minorities, women, veterans, and unemployed energy workers for energy and manufacturing-related jobs in order to increase the number of skilled workers trained to work in those fields.

This bill is a victory for my constituency and for underrepresented Americans in the energy and manufacturing fields. My goal is to provide new opportunities for communities such as the one I represent that are overwhelmed with violence and other struggles due to the scarcity of jobs and economic opportunities.

In a recent report, the American Petroleum Institute (API) projected that there will be 525,000 new jobs in the oil and natural gas industry by 2020, with 166,000 (31 percent) of them expected to be held by African-American and Hispanic-American workers. That number could potentially increase by 2030 to 811,000 new opportunities, with more than 285,000 (35 percent) filled by minorities.

A 2013 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that clean energy investment is expected to grow by 230 percent to a projected $630 billion annually by 2030. This growth, which would also provide tremendous employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, will be driven by additional improvements in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies and an increase in the rollout of non-intermittent clean energy sources, including hydropower, geothermal, and biomass.

Accordingly, H.R. 4583 provides a pathway to employment for minorities and other historically underrepresented communities in the energy and manufacturing sectors. The bill represents a bipartisan effort to create a comprehensive strategy for initiating collaboration between the departments of Energy, Commerce, and Labor, as well as industry, schools, community colleges, universities, workforce development organizations, and other stakeholders in order to engage, inform, train, and recruit minorities, women, and veterans for the energy and manufacturing jobs of the present and future.

The bill passed in the House on a suspension vote, a practice typically reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It received bipartisan support from members of Congress who represent constituencies from diverse regions of the country and who come with different political persuasions. Fortunately, my colleagues and I put aside our differences and focused on bringing forth a jobs bill that will benefit all communities and help lift the entire American economy.

More recently, during the opening session of the conference committee to resolve differences between the Senate and House energy bills, I called for inclusion of underrepresented groups for energy and manufacturing-related jobs in these burgeoning fields. I believe that if we want to make sure that all communities are able to succeed, then we must be willing to invest in these communities.

The 21st Century Energy Workforce Act requires collaboration between the DOE and energy and manufacturing-related industries in order to develop a workforce trained to work in various related sectors, including renewables, energy efficiency, oil and gas, coal, nuclear, utility, pipeline, alternative fuels, and energy-intensive and advanced manufacturing industries. This bill is a prime example of how, by working together for the betterment of our country, the federal government can effectively help lift up communities, while also securing the United States’ future in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

H.R. 4583 represents a win for our communities, a win for industry, and a win for the entire U.S. economy.

Representative Rush has represented the First Congressional District of Illinois since 1993. He is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ranking Democratic Member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee.

Read the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

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