Recent investments in clean energy under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act will give communities across the US the opportunity to create new jobs in clean energy. But will these new jobs be good jobs—and who will have access to them?

A new project from the Urban Institute finds that while clean energy jobs are more likely to be high quality (or offer better wages, benefits, and job security) compared with the overall labor market, women and people of color are underrepresented in the potential clean energy workforce. Our analysis also finds that high-quality jobs in clean energy are generally in the following occupations: engineering and architecture; management; installation, maintenance, and repair; and construction and extraction.

To advance equity in the clean energy workforce, communities could work with universities, employers, and unions to address barriers to high-quality jobs and help women and people of color access higher education and workforce development opportunities.

Because engineering and architecture jobs in clean energy often require technical degrees, advancing equitable access to these jobs will require increasing access to related four-year degrees among women and people of color.

According to a report by the American Society for Engineering, roughly one-quarter of bachelor’s degrees in engineering were awarded to women (PDF) in 2022. About 25 percent of women leave engineering occupations (PDF) within five years, often because of insufficient job training and development opportunities (PDF) and less overall support from supervisors and peers.

People of color are also underrepresented among recent engineering graduates. In 2021, Latine people were about 19 percent of the US population but were awarded only 13.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering (PDF). Black people—roughly 14 percent of the population—received 4.7 percent of engineering degrees.

To help more women and people of color access engineering and architecture jobs in clean energy, universities and employers could help connect women with mentors in their field who are the same gender, race, or ethnicity. Universities could offer financial awards (PDF), such as scholarships, assistantships, or fellowships, to underrepresented students, provide them professional opportunities such as internships or apprenticeships, or hire more faculty of color. They could also create authentic, real-world research and learning experiences for women and students of color.

Like engineering and architecture jobs, most management roles in clean energy require a four-year degree. However, management jobs often require fewer technical skills than engineering jobs. In addition, many of the skills a worker would need for both the management and technical aspects of a role—including industry-specific software or equipment—could be learned through on-the-job training or shorter-term training programs outside of work. To expand access to high-quality opportunities among women and workers of color, clean energy employers could reexamine degree requirements for managerial positions and provide more training opportunities.

Read the full article about clean energy jobs by Hailey D'Elia at Urban Institute.