The Global View

US invests $100 million to build smart-grid workforce

The US is awarding nearly $100 million to 54 smart grid workforce training programmes aimed at building a next-generation workforce in the utility and electrical manufacturing industries. The stimulus fund-backed initiative is expected to provide work training to some 30,000 people.

A new and adequately trained workforce is needed if the US is to meet its goal of modernising its ageing electrical grid and deploying smart grid technologies for improved energy efficiency across the country. The Obama Administration has allocated more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funding for smart grid installations and demonstration projects.

“Building and operating smart grid infrastructure will put tens of thousands of Americans to work,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Today’s investment will help ensure that we have the workforce in place to meet this need. This is a great opportunity for workers to upgrade their skills and earn more, or for laid-off workers from other industries to start fresh in a new and growing field.”

The award funds will support two types of workforce training initiatives:

  • Development and enhancement of training programmes for the electric power sector (33 projects and $41.6 million in awards)
  • Development of smart grid workforce training programmes (21 projects and $57.7 million in funding).

The individual programmes receiving funds range from a $1.4 million (with cost-sharing from schools, utilities and manufacturers) smart grid training programme for citizens of the Navajo Nation to a $317,800 project with Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University to produce a series of short educational videos on power grid operations; and smart grid equipment demonstration, assembly, installation, and use.