Workforce ready to reach clean energy goals

Electrical unions have added 2,500 workers and 5,000 more on the way

OUR COMMONWEALTH is beginning a revolutionary energy transformation and the steps we take now will dramatically shape our climate and economic future. From strategic and inclusive workforce development, to building our electrical infrastructure, to ensuring we can power our lives without polluting our air and water – we are all in this together.

Massachusetts has set an ambitious goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Gov. Maura Healey also included more than $49.2 million towards training and workforce development in her recently-signed state budget.

Our teamwork over the next decade is critical to ensure a swift, strategic, and equitable transformation to clean energy. As the leaders of the largest union of electrical workers and contractors in New England, we are focused on meeting this goal every day.

Expanding electrification requires a highly-skilled, well-trained, and sizable workforce ready to build the baseline infrastructure needed to supply clean energy. Business owners, households, utilities, and public officials can count on union electrical workers to get the job done efficiently and with care.

Electrical union contractors have already begun to install new technologies in our communities. Contractor Lynnwell Associates and union electricians helped design and install the electric vehicle infrastructure for Boston Public Schools. This past February, Boston’s first 20 electricity-powered school buses hit the streets, carrying 2,500 students to and from 42 schools daily, launching the first stage of an ambitious pilot program aimed to completely electrify Boston Public School’s 700-vehicle fleet by 2030.

As part of Boston’s electric vehicle readiness program, we successfully installed a turnkey electric vehicle charging system at the Alcott Apartments, a 44-story residential tower with 470 units. The five-story parking facility now accommodates 160 electric vehicles. These projects highlight the significant strides being made in promoting sustainable transportation solutions. By integrating electric vehicle charging infrastructure into new developments, Boston, in collaboration with committed contractors like JM Electrical, is actively shaping a cleaner and greener future.

Contrary to some recent reports, the electrical workforce needed to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals is here today and ready to go. And there is no current labor shortage of electricians for responsible union contractors. IBEW 103 and members of the National Electrical Contractors Association have been installing and maintaining the renewable energy infrastructure of the region’s power grid for years, including developing clean power generation and storage facilities, local microgrids, solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicle charging stations, and other clean energy-dependent technologies that replace fossil fuel-dependent technologies like air conditioners, gas stoves, and internal combustion engines.

Local 103 and the Boston chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association are doing our part to meet demand by investing upwards of $10 million every year to recruit, educate, train, and upskill our network of 9,000 plus workers to support both consumer and commercial demand for electric infrastructure. With strategic investments in workforce development, our membership has increased by nearly 2,500 members in the last several years. That growth is about to double, as we prepare to add another 5,000 members over the next five years to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals.

Our state’s climate goals also demand that we expand our electrical workforce to increase diversity in the electrical field. Together, we are building the most diverse electrical workforce Massachusetts has ever seen, with women and people of color comprising more than 50 percent of our apprenticeship classes.

In addition to training a qualified and diverse workforce and building the infrastructure, it takes intentional advocacy and organizing around policies that address environmental justice concerns, affordable clean energy access, job creation, and economic opportunities for everyone. Local 103 members are ready to make our voices heard.

To power the change, the state’s transition to clean energy calls for concerted efforts and collaborative planning by government stakeholders, businesses, labor unions, community organizations, and environmental advocates.

Lou Antonellis is the business manager and financial secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103. Kristen Gowin is the executive manager of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) of Greater Boston, Inc.