California Workforce Innovation Fund Will Invest in Pathways to Green Jobs in Underserved Communities

Jobs for the Future(JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, in partnership with Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB), announced the creation of the High Road Training Fund (HRTF), a new public-private partnership that will provide funding to help workers from communities that are underserved by public and private institutions train jobs in high-growth, climate-resilient industries.

“At a time of broad-based income inequality and growing climate threats, climate resilience and economic inclusion are two sides of the same coin,” said Ana Bertha Gutierrez, senior director at JFF. “This work is about driving investment in inclusive models of workforce development that prioritize equity, economic growth and inclusive regional economies alongside climate resilience and environmental protection.”

The State of California has invested approximately $62 million in public funding to expand High Road Training Partnerships (HRTP) and High Road Construction Careers (HRCC), and has proposed significant additional funding in the 2022-23 budget. The HRTF is a separate private investment that can supplement areas historically not covered through public funding streams. Over the next three years, the HRTF will invest more than $18 million to support the needs of HRTP grantees in providing more holistic workforce approaches. The fund will provide resources to cover the barriers often faced by workers living in poverty, ranging from financial assistance to cover basic needs like housing and food insecurity, to capacity-building funding for local programs and community-based organization partners.

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“We’re building a workforce of the future to create a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous California,” said Governor Newsom. “Public-private partnerships like these are critical to achieving our shared goals as a state—an all hands-on deck approach to provide workers with the training and education needed for these new jobs as we create a more sustainable and resilient future for all Californians.”

The Lumina Foundation has already invested direct and aligned seed funding. With support from the James Irvine Foundation, JFF is working with the CWDB to launch the new HRTF in late summer 2022. JFF’s Inclusive Regional Economic Development team will serve as the fund manager and work collaboratively with state partners to share research and insights about how the fund is working to scale opportunities for greater inclusion in the workforce as the state economy moves toward a just climate transition.

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“Climate risk reduction and inclusive economic growth are not mutually exclusive,” said Aida Cardenas, deputy director of climate, equity, and jobs at the California Workforce Development Board. “Our goal is to drive toward a vision of shared prosperity by crafting policy solutions that reinforce—and harmonize—job quality, equity, and environmental protection. This fund will help workers from communities underserved by public and private institutions throughout California prepare for better-paying—and more resilient—jobs of tomorrow.”

The HRTP and HRCC are administered by the California Workforce Development Board, and provide training to help workers complete the transition to growing—and sustainable—occupations and industries. They focus on empowering workers from communities underserved by public and private institutions to prepare for roles in other sectors of the economy, such as construction, forestry and agriculture, hospitality, public transit and utilities, healthcare, trade and logistics.

As the threat of global climate change continues to accelerate, the State of California is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. In 2018, the California Workforce Development Board announced an ambitious “high road” economic framework focused on advancing climate resilience and sustainability while strengthening equity and economic opportunity in communities that are underserved by public and private instiutions.

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