By MIKE LEE
As the threat of climate change continues to slowly degrade New York City’s viability, DC 37 is training workers to be the leading edge of a skilled workforce to deal with the crisis.
As a long-time leader in the drive toward a green, sustainable New York City, last year the union announced an ambitious program to train workers for green jobs to help confront the growing impact of climate change on the city.
“Our city has seen firsthand what happens when we’re not prepared for the growing climate crisis,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “The city must create a pathway for good, green union jobs, and DC 37 has the skilled labor and training programs within our union to fill them.”
Through its Education Fund, the DC 37 Green Jobs Training Initiative began its first year of training workers to be part of a future generation of a green workforce. Thanks partly to a grant awarded by NYSERDA — the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — the Green Jobs Training Initiative began holding classes last year.
From May 2021 through the end of mid-December, the program’s participants earned approximately 71 GPRO certifications created by the Urban Green Council, whose stated goal is “teaching the people who build, renovate and maintain buildings the tools to integrate high-performance construction and maintenance practices into their everyday work.”
Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the DC 37 Education Fund, said the certifications earned include Environmental Fundamentals, Electric, Mechanical, and Operations & Maintenance, all areas vital to providing services in green-oriented building engineering and technical maintenance.
The Ed Fund helped train 77 students in the first year alone, including 46 DC 37 members.
“These are identified as ‘incumbent’ workers, those who are already engineers, architects, construction project managers, and other related job titles who received advanced level training to further their career prospects,” Johnson said.
These job titles earn higher incomes than the average DC 37 member. However, out of those students, 27 were in disadvantaged communities.
“These communities are defined by having an above-average burden of adverse public-health effects, environmental pollution, the impact of climate change, and comprise high concentrations of low-and moderate-income households,” Johnson said.
Among that group, 13 students belonged to an identified priority population, which Johnson defined as veterans, individuals with disabilities, single parents, the homeless, and workers who are low-income, previously incarcerated, or aged 16-24.
In Oct. 2021, the Ed Fund submitted a new grant application for additional funding of nearly $500,000 to continue training. This grant will provide an opportunity to expand classes to new students looking to move from their current careers to participate in the basics of the green energy economy by learning to work in energy efficiency, building construction, and maintenance.
“As of now, we are still waiting to see if we’ll get additional money for the new training we plan to offer this year,” Johnson said. “We have not conducted any outreach since we have not yet received the additional grant money. So while we don’t have a start date yet, hopefully we can plan to begin before the summer months.”
Even without the grant, Johnson is hopeful DC 37 and the Education Fund will continue the training for a small group, training that will be longer in scope since this will expand on last year’s program.
The union is far from alone in its efforts. By making appointments to address climate change and environmental justice, notably Rit Aggarwala as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Mayor Eric Adams has made it clear that a sustainable city is a priority in his administration.
This coincides with DC 37’s efforts, such as the Green Jobs Initiative, to provide a unionized workforce to meet the demands of a greener workforce.