In an aerial view, workers move fresh sand delivered via barge to the main public beach during a sand replenishment project along eroding shoreline on May 21, 2024, in San Clemente, California.

In an aerial view, workers move fresh sand delivered via barge to the main public beach during a sand replenishment project along eroding shoreline on May 21, 2024, in San Clemente, California. Mario Tama via Getty Images

Feds invest $60M to boost local climate resilience and workforce development

The Climate-Ready Workforce initiative looks to place individuals in good-paying jobs that help advance coastal communities’ climate resilience.

In the 1980s, the U.S. saw a $1 billion climate disaster every four months, one federal official said. Today, it’s as frequent as every three weeks. 

“It’s a stark reminder of the escalating [climate] risks we’re up against, and the demand for adaptation and resilient solutions is increasing,” said Jainey Bavishi, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. “With that comes an increasing demand for a climate-ready workforce … to help communities and businesses prepare for the impacts of climate change.” 

On a call with reporters Tuesday, Bavishi pointed to the fact that the number of city- and state-level climate adaptation plans have risen by 32% since 2018, but fulfilling those plans effectively is difficult without a diverse, skilled workforce. 

To help communities strengthen climate resilience and increase jobs, NOAA is investing $60 million into a workforce development program to help people find climate-centered jobs and implement climate mitigation across the public and private sectors. 

The Climate-Ready Workforce for Coastal and Great Lakes States, Tribes and Territories initiative will support nine job training programs, NOAA officials announced Tuesday. The programs in Alaska, the American Samoa, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington will help ensure coastal communities have the workforce to manage the impacts of climate change. 

Of the $60 million total, $50 million will go toward project implementation, and the other $10 million will support technical assistance for the grantees. The program also advances President Joe Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which calls for 40% of benefits of federal investments to reach disadvantaged communities. 

The Climate-Ready Workforce Initiative will help forge partnerships among governments and stakeholders “to train workers all over the country [in climate resilience] from supporting water resources and infrastructure in Ohio, to restoring wetlands and building living shorelines in Texas, to collecting real time environmental data to aid climate adaptation efforts in Native Alaskan communities,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said on the call. 

In Massachusetts, for instance, the Boston Office of Workforce Development will train individuals for deploying the city’s Climate-Ready Boston Coastal Climate Resilience Plan and the state’s ResilientMass plan. With its $9.8 million in funds, the agency plans to train more than 1,000 workers, prioritizing those from historically underrepresented communities, for positions in nature-based solutions, emergency preparedness and response, water utility management, construction and other fields. Participants will then be placed into coastal climate-resilient jobs and will have access to wraparound services such as childcare, career coaching and stipends. 

Another $9.3 million was awarded to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to launch an initiative to encourage and promote tribal representation in climate resilience efforts. The program will improve collaboration among community and technical colleges, tribal nations and other stakeholders to prepare participants for designing and implementing climate adaptation strategies that align with indigenous tribes’ values and practices.

“Once people complete the training, we believe they’ll be prepared for specific jobs in areas ranging from conservation to renewable energy, urban agriculture, green infrastructure, water management, emergency preparedness and many other fields,” Raimondo said.

A full list of awardees and projects can be found here. The nine projects are slated to start Aug. 1. NOAA will host a virtual symposium in December for grant awardees to update the public on their progress. 

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance effective, equitable workforce development and, importantly, support historically underserved communities so that everyone can thrive in the face of climate change and … receive the economic benefits of these investments,” Raimondo said.