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To Create an Inclusive Green Economy, We Need to Prepare and Train the Green Workforce

By Matt Petersen, LACI President and CEO 


LACI brings people together to create an inclusive green economy in Greater Los Angeles and beyond. From our industry-leading startup incubation programs to our transformative public-private partnerships, we are empowering innovators and accelerating equitable climate action. 

However, how do we make sure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the growing green economy? How do we create opportunities for more individuals? As we see record federal investment from the Inflation Reduction Act make its way to our communities, how do we make sure our workforce is prepared to do the work required? How do we make sure everyone benefits from cleaner air, efficient homes and vehicles, and healthier communities? 

As many Angelenos are struggling to make ends meet to care for their families, we see an opportunity to create economic opportunity and advance inclusion through our workforce development program. And as our cleantech companies and partners grow to meet this historic moment of climate investment, they need trained people to do the work. 

When I joined LACI in 2017, our workforce development efforts were just an idea. Working with partner organizations like the LA Coalition for the Economy and Jobs, we piloted our first workforce development programs in 2018. The results showed that by utilizing our world-class prototyping facilities and labs to help train individuals, we proved we could help prepare the workforce for the growing green economy. 

Based on the pilot workforce programs, we requested funding from the California State Legislature to create our first full programs. With that support, we began to create a workforce training program that would help advance our unprecedented, public private Transportation Electrification Partnership: the EVSE maintenance training program, the first such program in the nation. We even launched a startup: Kameale Terry volunteered to help the training program, got the idea for a business to maintain and fix EV chargers, and hence the idea for ChargerHelp! was born.

Out of the program we graduated our first cohort, placing 15 of the 30 graduates in paid internships. This access to talent for our startups and partner organizations is critical as they grow. One of our first graduates interned for the City of LA’s Public Works Board, and later got hired as the City’s first food waste reduction coordinator.

Thanks to Estelle Reyes, Daniel Ferguson, Sharon Segado and our whole workforce team, we have grown LACI’s Green Jobs Workforce Development Program into a multi-tiered training pipeline that provides participants with the technical training, interpersonal skills, and industry-recognized certifications to jumpstart their careers.

The program recruits participants from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, and focuses on creating opportunities for underemployed/unemployed, low-to-moderate income individuals–particularly those from historically marginalized groups. Those just starting out in the green job sector typically enroll in the hands-on Green Jobs Fellowship, while those with some experience often apply to our faster paced Green Jobs Training Courses. Both options are completely free to attend and come with a host of benefits.  

Participants in the program gain practical knowledge in the areas of product development, electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) maintenance, software development and IT support, and more. 

To date, LACI has trained more than 400 workforce participants, many of whom have gone on to launch successful careers in both the public and private sector, at places like Tesla, Evolectric, and the City of Los Angeles. Selected participants are matched with LACI startups and partners for internships and potential job opportunities. 

Recognizing that we cannot achieve our goals without a robust, qualified green workforce, the program serves as an investment in the individual participants and the green economy as a whole. 

The program is made possible by support from the California State Legislature through Workforce Development Board and GoBiz, J.P. Morgan Chase, Clean Power Alliance, US Bank and Los Angeles Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWDD). Thanks to their support and the diligence of those who conduct the training, we are building a workforce that can immediately serve the needs of the growing green economy.  

As the workforce participants make their way from our classrooms to their promising careers, they will help us go further, faster as a region–ensuring the only thing left behind is harmful, life threatening air pollution.