BOSTON – Today the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation streamlining the organizational structure of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center (CETC). Included in An Act Relative to Clean Energy is an initiative sponsored by State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) to make permanent the Pathways out of Poverty (Pathways) grant program within the Center.
Last year Downing championed the effort to establish Pathways within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) as a part of the Green Jobs Act of 2008. Pathways grants are intended to support economic self-sufficiency in the clean energy industry for low and moderate-income individuals.
Under Downing’s lead, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to establish a grant program focused on training disadvantaged workers for green collar jobs. Today’s Senate action ensures Pathways will continue to operate by transferring administrative responsibility of the program to CETC and further mandating that it be a permanent program within the Center.
The mission of the CETC is to spur job growth and economic development in the Commonwealth’s clean energy sector.
Downing spoke on the Senate floor today, urging his colleagues to support this initiative.
“The only truly sustainable economy in the 21st century is a green economy,” said Downing. “With increasing demands for clean energy, companies are growing at a rapid pace and a skilled workforce is needed to continue that growth. This proposal knocks down barriers faced by disadvantaged populations who were shut out of past economic expansions.”
Pathways programs train workers to handle energy efficient technology and environmental changes across many disciplines including solar and photovoltaic installation, green construction, green landscaping, manufacturing of green products and energy retrofitting. Eligible grant recipients include: clean energy companies, regional employment boards, community-based nonprofits, educational institutions, and labor organizations. Pathways grants call upon businesses, government, educators and labor to work towards the common goal of developing a robust clean energy sector statewide.
Berkshire County is leading the way in green collar training. Berkshire Community College (BCC) received a $200,000 Pathways grant in April and used the award to begin its Green Certificate program in August. Currently, 30 students are enrolled in the program and are completing classroom training and earning laboratory skills in green energy sectors. BCC hopes to renovate its Hoffman Environmental Center to house a Renewable Energy Training Center with labs and classrooms specifically for its Green Certificate program.
Massachusetts is a national leader in green jobs training; Pathways programs have since been launched in Washington and New York states. Further, federal officials are taking notice of Massachusetts’ commitment to green jobs training; the Commonwealth is poised to take advantage of stimulus funds dedicated to such programs.
An Act Relative to Clean Energy awaits final enactment by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.