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US Government Launches Climate Corps to Train Youth with Skills Needed to Tackle the Climate Crisis

In its first year, the American Climate Corps aims to put more than 20,000 young people on career pathways in the growing fields of clean energy, conservation and climate resilience.

Since taking office, President Biden has championed the most ambitious climate, clean energy, conservation and environmental justice agenda in US history — including signing into law the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest investment in climate action ever; protecting more than 21 million acres of public lands and water; and advancing the Justice40 Initiative, which directs 40 percent of the benefits from key federal investments to disadvantaged communities. Now, the administration is focused on the next step: to mobilize the next generation of clean-energy, conservation and climate-resilience workers.

In the newest phase of his Investing in America agenda, Biden has launched the American Climate Corps — a workforce training and service initiative that will ensure more young people have access to the skills-based training necessary for good-paying careers in the clean energy and climate resilience economy. The American Climate Corps will mobilize a new, diverse generation of more than 20,000 US young people — putting them to work conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy, implementing energy-efficient technologies, and advancing environmental justice; all while creating pathways to high-quality, good-paying clean-energy and climate-resilience jobs in the public and private sectors after they complete their paid training program.

Filling critical gaps

Despite the well-articulated need for prompt shifts in business strategies, prioritizing natural-resource conservation, and embracing renewable energies and technologies to ensure a livable planet, both the private and public sectors around the world have painted themselves into a corner — having made bold proclamations regarding their support for these shifts, but no substantive moves to put them into practice: On the infrastructure front, investments to make the necessary updates to the energy grid — and create a workforce capable of building and maintaining the technologies we’ll need — have been pitiful, at best. And on the business front, sustainability leaders at some of the world’s largest companies reported the scarcity of talent trained around the challenges of climate change at both operations and board level to be one of the largest barriers to achieving their net-zero targets. The launch of the American Climate Corps marks a critical step in the right direction, on both fronts.

The Corps will focus on equity and environmental justice — prioritizing traditionally opportunity-challenged communities of color and projects that help meet the administration’s Justice40 goal. Additionally, Biden is calling on Tribal, State, and local governments; labor unions; nonprofit service allies; the private sector and philanthropy to collaborate with the federal government to expand skills-based training partnerships to ensure our nation has the workforce necessary to meet our climate goals. In fact, in conjunction with the launch of the nationwide Climate Corps, five new states — Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah — join California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington in launching their own Climate Corps (for a total of 10 states that have launched their own Climate Corps since 2021), which will work as implementing collaborators.

Goals

The American Climate Corps will:

  • Train young people in clean-energy, conservation and climate-resilience-related skills — including, for example, restoring coastal wetlands to protect communities from storm surges and flooding; deploying clean energy; managing forests to improve health and prevent catastrophic wildfires; implementing energy-efficient solutions to cut energy bills for hardworking families, and more. All American Climate Corps programs will be paid experiences that adhere to a common set of programmatic standards and provide pathways to high-quality employment opportunities in the public and private sectors. No prior experience is required for most positions. Through the American Climate Corps, federal departments and agencies will build upon existing relationships to ensure that all young people have the chance to participate in these opportunities.

  • Coordinate recruitment across federal programs: In the coming months, to facilitate a streamlined experience for American Climate Corps participants, the Federal government will launch a dedicated American Climate Corps recruitment website where participants can learn about and apply for opportunities in their community and organizations can learn how to work with American Climate Corps members. Moreover, to ensure Federal agencies are working together to implement the American Climate Corps, the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of the Interior, US Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Energy (DOE) and AmeriCorps will sign a memorandum of understanding to formalize this new initiative; and AmeriCorps will stand up a new “American Climate Corps hub,” which will support the American Climate Corps.

  • Expand AmeriCorps Segal Education Awards access: The Biden Administration is encouraging AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith to expand access to Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards — which can be used by AmeriCorps members after completing their service to pay for post-secondary education and training or to reduce their student debt — to American Climate Corps members conducting national service work.

  • Streamline pathways into civil service: The Office of Personnel Management has issued a proposed rulemaking that could, if finalized, create a streamlined pathway into federal service for federally-supported national, state, local, or Tribal service programs, including American Climate Corps programs.

The launch of the American Climate Corps builds on nearly $500 million of Biden-Harris Administration investments to expand pathways into good-paying union jobs by prioritizing registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs, including in clean energy and other climate-focused careers. To continue building on this agenda, the Administration is:

  • Investing in pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships through the Department of Labor: Earlier this year, the DOL’s YouthBuild program awarded $90 million to grantees — including supporting pre-apprenticeships that will educate and train young people in climate-focused initiatives. And the DOL supported a historic $20M cooperative agreement with the TradesFutures — a nonprofit working to develop, promote and improve apprenticeship readiness programs to advance equitable opportunities in construction trades. TradesFutures seeks to enroll more than 13,000 participants in pre-apprenticeship readiness programs — giving them hands-on learning experience and skill development — and expects to subsequently place at least 7,000 of them into registered apprenticeships in the construction industry.

  • Investing in pre-apprenticeship programs through the Department of Energy: The DOE’s Career Skills Training Program has announced $10 million to provide grants to pay the federal share of career skills-training programs under which students concurrently receive classroom instruction and on-the-job training for the purpose of obtaining an industry-related certification to install energy-efficient building technologies. Additionally, this week, DOE hosted the inaugural meeting of the 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board — which is charged with advising the Secretary of Energy in developing a strategy for the DOE to support and develop a skilled energy workforce, including effective education and job training for underrepresented groups and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals.

  • Expanding national service opportunities to advance our wildfire crisis strategy: AmeriCorps and the US Forest Service have launched the AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) Forest Corps — a five-year, $15 million agreement and the first major interagency partnership under the American Climate Corps. Beginning Summer 2024, this program will engage 80 young adults (ages 18-26) in wildland fire prevention, reforestation, and other natural and cultural resource-management projects to support the US Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy and Reforestation Strategy. Consistent with President Biden’s call for Congress to increase the AmeriCorps living allowance, AmeriCorps NCCC Forest Corps members will receive a compensation package equivalent to $15 an hour — including lodging, transportation, clothing, a living allowance, health benefits and more. Members will receive extensive training, hands-on-experience, and leadership skills for future careers in natural-resource management, forest health and climate resilience at the US Forest Service or other organizations.

  • Expanding the Indian Youth Service Corps: This week, the Department of the Interior announced a $15 million commitment through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to expand the Indian Youth Service Corps and other programs supporting the next generation of conservation and climate stewards. This effort will be facilitated in collaboration with the Office of Strategic Partnerships, which was launched during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit to assist with building partnerships, leveraging resources and promoting innovative solutions for Indian Country. With funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Interior Department will expand the capacity of the Corps and similar projects serving underserved communities by 30 percent — with a goal to reach over 5,000 young people. The expanded programs will work with federally recognized Tribes and Tribal organizations, as well as programs serving the US territories, the Native Hawaiian Community, and urban communities across the United States.

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