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US Department of Energy Better Plants Program’s Approach to Manufacturing Workforce Development

Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
Proceedings of the ACEEE 2023 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 11
Publisher Location
Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America
Conference Name
2023 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry
Conference Location
Detroit, Michigan, United States of America
Conference Sponsor
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Conference Date

Multiple studies suggest that by 2030, millions of jobs may go unfilled because of a significant skills gap between the current manufacturing workforce and the workforce needed to support the shift toward advanced and sustainable manufacturing. According to US manufacturers, finding the right talent is more difficult now than in previous years. Developing a well-trained workforce will play a critical role in transforming the manufacturing sector into a net-zero contributor of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To help reduce energy, water, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions as well as build a strong, sustainable manufacturing workforce, the US Department of Energy created the voluntary Better Plants program in 2011. This study discusses the program’s various workforce development activities, including in-plant trainings, virtual in-plant trainings, and in-person bootcamps. The target audiences, training objectives, and topics designed to upskill workers for a low-carbon manufacturing future are described. Feedback that was collected (e.g., new training topics, certifications, hands-on activities) while working with more than 270 US manufacturers for the past 12 years on workforce development are discussed. Finally, some strategies are proposed to address the feedback.