(800) 669-5556


What’s going with clean jobs training in Illinois?

Illinois Solar for All (https://www.illinoissfa.com/)

by Cate York, CUB sustainable communities liaison

The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) of 2016 was huge. It ramped up energy efficiency programs for ComEd and Ameren customers, exploded the solar economy, and created low-income programs to extend the benefits of clean energy to all Illinoisans. But what about the “jobs” part of all this? 

In addition to the billions in private investment created through its renewable energy incentives, FEJA allocated millions to jobs training programs in Illinois. (As of 2018, there are 123,247 clean energy jobs in Illinois – a 4 percent growth rate from 2017, with an anticipated 8.5 percent growth rate for 2019.) In 2017, in compliance with FEJA, the Illinois Commerce Commission directed ComEd to implement a statewide solar workforce development plan.

Top 3 MSAs in Clean Energy Employment, 2018 (click the photo to see the source)

And ComEd just published its workforce development report for 2018! The full report is available here

FEJA created three main job-training programs detailed in the report: the Solar Training Pipeline Program, the Craft Apprenticeship Program and the Multi-Cultural Job Training Program. 

Three funding periods were created for 2017, 2021, and 2025. In each funding year, $10 million would be distributed to organizations across all programs, for a total of $30 million.  

Source: 2018 Workforce Development Implementation Plan Report

The 2018 report measures the success of the programs that received the 2017 funding. Altogether, the programs enrolled 348 participants, who went on to earn a combined total of 508 professional certifications. 

Source: 2018 Workforce Development Implementation Plan Report

Of the participants, 85 were women, 200 were men, 263 were minorities, 78 were from environmental justice communities, 49 were returning citizens, and four were from foster care backgrounds. There was an average 82% completion rate across all programs, with 66% of graduates placed in jobs within 180 days of completing a program. 

A side note here – these programs are crucial to the clean energy economy in Illinois, but FEJA didn’t go far enough. The Clean Energy Jobs Act would put Illinois on track to 100% renewable energy by 2050 by further investing in bill-saving clean energy programs. If these goals are important to you, you should contact your legislators

So here’s a closer look at what the workforce development grantees have been up to. (Note that “NABCEP” stands for National American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, a certificate program for solar installers.

Solar Training Pipeline Program

  • Purpose: to create a solar installer pool for the Illinois Solar for All Program that includes individuals from economically disadvantaged communities, including returning citizens and individuals from foster care backgrounds
  • Goal: 2,000 job placements by 2029
  • Funding: $3 million in 2017, 2021 and 2025
  • Providers
    • Illinois Central College: 
      • Two nine-week training sessions (partnered with Tri-County Urban League and Jobs Partnership Peoria)
        • 23 participants completed training and 16 received NABCEP PV Associate Certification
    • Elevate Energy: 
      • Eight-to-ten-week training sessions (partnered with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and GRID Alternatives in Marion/Carbondale and Millennium Solar Electric in the south/west sides of Chicago)
        • 21 participants in Chicago, 9 participants in Marion 
      • Contractor Accelerator Program to provide program management to women-, minority-, and veteran-owned solar contractors (statewide)
        • 3 contractors enrolled
      • Recruitment and support services for solar trainees (Chicago) 
    • OAI Inc: 
      • Eight-week training program (Chicago and South Holland)
        • 34 participants completed training (all from environmental justice communities), scheduled to take the NAPCEP PV Associate Certification exam in summer 2019
    • Safer Foundation: 
      • 35-hour job skill training for returning citizens, with partner referrals to Elevate, OAI, and IBEW (Chicagoland, Quad Cities) 
        • 25 referrals to Elevate Energy, OAI, and IBEW programs

Craft Apprenticeship Program

  • Purpose: to fund electrical apprenticeships and encourage participants (from economically-disadvantaged communities) to achieve NABCEP certifications
  • Funding: $3 million in 2017, 2021 and 2025
  • Provider: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134 in Chicago 
  • Goal: implement solar training throughout Illinois, including:
    • 17 of the local IBEW sites
    • 6 partner community college campuses
      • Rock Valley (Rockford) – starts 2019
      • Olive Harvey (Chicago) – 12 students completed
      • Lincoln Land (Springfield) – starts 2019
      • Southwestern (Belleville, Granite City, and Red Bud)
      • John Logan (Carterville) – starts 2019
      • Lake County (Grayslake) – starts 2019
    • 8 partner high schools, including Prosser Career Academy (Chicago) and Benito Juarez Community Academy (Chicago) – 49 students began training in September 2018

Multi-Cultural Job Training Program

  • Purpose: to fund multi-cultural jobs programs related to solar installations within diversity-focused community organizations 
  • Funding: $4 million in 2017, 2021 and 2025
  • Providers:
    • Chicago Urban League (Chicago) and Quad County Urban League (Aurora)
      • 31 participants completed training 
    • National Latino Education Institute
      • 10 participants completed training
    • Aspira of Illinois
      • 9 high school seniors completed training at Antonia Pantoja High School (Chicago)
    • Hispanic American Construction Industry Association
    • Chatham Business Association Small Business Development, Inc.
      • 14 minority-owned businesses enrolled
    • Austin Peoples Action Center
      • 10 students completed training