1. Home
  2. policy
  3. economy
  4. news
  5. A federal climate jobs program could hire 20,000 workers this year

A federal climate jobs program could hire 20,000 workers this year

Catherine Boudreau   

A federal climate jobs program could hire 20,000 workers this year
  • President Joe Biden aims to expand the American Climate Corps as part of his reelection bid.
  • Biden requested an $8 billion budget to boost the training program to 50,000 workers by 2031.

President Joe Biden this month made climate jobs a major focus of his reelection bid.

In his State of the Union address, Biden said he wanted to expand the American Climate Corps, which is modeled after a New Deal-era program that hired millions of men to conserve public lands, forests, and parks.

He followed the speech with an $8 billion budget request to Congress this week to boost the climate-jobs training program to 50,000 workers through 2031. The administration plans to launch the American Climate Corps this summer with about 20,000 workers, but the funding is pieced together from various federal agencies.

Biden's actions are aimed at shoring up the votes of young people worried about the climate crisis, as well as closing the green-skills gap. Young people turned out for Biden in 2020 but have since blasted the administration's decisions to approve oil drilling in the pristine Alaskan wilderness and a gas pipeline in Appalachia. These prospective voters are also the target hires for the American Climate Corps, which will focus on reducing greenhouse-gas pollution in local communities and making them more resilient to extreme weather.

Trevor Dolan, Evergreen Action's industry- and workforce-policy lead, said he expected the program to be a pathway to a good-paying career.

"The Biden administration has committed to paying people a living wage and providing benefits while they are in the Climate Corps, as well as educational awards so they can seek post-secondary education or pay off student-loan debt," Dolan told Business Insider.

The exact job titles are still to be determined, but the administration has said jobs would be focused on protecting and restoring waterways and natural buffers to extreme weather, energy efficiency, deploying renewable energy, disaster preparation and recovery, and community outreach on climate issues.

Dolan said that there's interest in making some jobs pre-apprenticeship positions in partnership with local trade unions. This would create a route to become an electrician, carpenter, pipefitter, and other tradesperson that the country needs as it transitions to a low-carbon economy.

There aren't enough electricians to install electric appliances in homes, maintain electric-vehicle charging stations, and expand transmission lines to connect renewable energy to the grid. A LinkedIn analysis found that only one in eight workers globally had the green skills companies were looking for, such as those for building solar, wind, and EV projects, protecting water quality, and preventing waste.

The White House didn't return a request for comment on the salary range for the jobs. An online recruitment portal is expected to launch this spring.

Stevie O'Hanlon, a spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, which mobilizes young voters focused on the climate, said the launch of the American Climate Corps was a big win. The group plans to advocate for permanent funding like Biden requested and watch the rollout closely to make sure jobs are created in communities "on the front lines of the fossil-fuel economy and climate change," O'Hanlon said.

But the chances of Congress approving more funding for the workforce program are slim, given that House Republicans last year tried to block any federal spending for the American Climate Corps. While former President Donald Trump hasn't addressed the program directly, he has threatened to unravel the Inflation Reduction Act — Biden's landmark climate law that's helping fund the first group of workers.

"This is a significant program to be rolling out in an election year," Dolan said. "We've already seen support from thousands of young folks around the country, so I would expect it to be a motivator for young folks going to the polls on Election Day."

Popular Right Now