Climate Change and clean energy has grabbed plenty of headlines in articles, news and social media posts over the past twenty years. So, do you know anyone who actually works in the clean energy industry? Probably. Clean energy means jobs, new jobs, here in the Inland Empire.
A recent study from the Washington D.C based industry group Environmental Entrepreneurs reports there are 10 to 15 clean energy jobs available for every 1,000 employable residents in Spokane County. This is second only to Benton county in southeast Washington (think the Tri-Cities) which has twice that number as the clean energy industry shifts to becoming more industry based.
The opportunity for greater employment in this sector does come with challenges. Companies like Accredited Business Avista Corps. in Spokane know that this work is shifting into more technology based – but the core skill sets in the work force haven’t changed with the demand. The struggle of companies like this creates a constant push – pull with a vibrant tech sector that also needs technology-educated employees.
These new jobs are a challenge to fill; consider wind turbine and solar display techs and even more technology-focused jobs like energy efficiency analysts and smart grid designers. These companies try to hire graduates from Spokane-area institutions, but they also need those hires to have experience, and that’s a challenge.
Compounding the issue is an increasing number of skilled workers in this field who are retiring. Looking ahead, Avista Corps. created a program to develop skills for a career in energy designed just for high school juniors and seniors. The program, called Energy Pathways, helps students develop the proficiencies, knowledge and abilities necessary to the industry. The program runs during the summer at the Jack Stewart Training Centre from July 13th to August 7th. Not a bad way to spend a summer and it also provides students who successfully complete the program with cash.
The clean energy industry continues to grow, create jobs and add wealth in the Inland Empire. While many of these new jobs are tech based, the Environmental Entrepreneurs report indicates 64% of the clean energy jobs are in the construction field. And that means future opportunity for many areas of the energy industry.