One City, One Workforce

New Yorkers don’t like to wait around, and the building trades are no different. So while Mayor de Blasio’s report, One City, Built to Last, calls for cutting New York City’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050—an ambitious and necessary target—organizations throughout the city have already begun making headway on some of the plan’s goals.

To make 80 by 50, the report says “we must implement extensive education and training across the entire industry spectrum of owners, architects, engineers, and construction workers.” We couldn’t agree more. Training workers who construct and operate buildings is the only way the industry can fully transition to sustainable practices; in fact, our Green Professionals Building Skills Training program (GPRO) was launched on that conviction.

A key avenue for change is to train a majority of the 108,000 building operations and maintenance professionals employed in New York City. While One City lays out plans to train 7,775 of them, the city is already off to a good start: GPRO has trained over 2,900 building operators and maintenance professionals in New York City alone. The Green Supers Program at 32BJ and the IUOE Local 94 Training Fund have also trained thousands, and over 1,000 more NYC school custodians have earned the rigorous Building Operators Certification through CUNY’s Building Performance Lab.

While One City, Built to Last focuses on future plans, much of the critical work to train the next generation of building operators is in progress—and aligned with one of the plan’s guiding strategies to reach new and underserved communities. LaGuardia Community College has just launched Carreras Verdes, a GPRO O&M training program for Spanish speakers, and Solar One has been offering green O&M courses aimed at staff who work at affordable housing projects. In addition, Americorps’ Green City Force has taught hundreds of low-income members the skills they need to succeed at jobs in the weatherization and energy efficiency fields.

Of course we’ll need to look beyond building operations to hit the 80 by 50 target. Thankfully, New York’s robust union training programs have taught thousands of apprentices and journeymen plumbers and electricians how to integrate sustainable technologies into new construction, including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, and lighting control systems.

Drastically cutting emissions in NYC buildings is a daunting task, but by combining skilled workforce with effective training resources, our city is ready to lead the way in mitigating climate change and building a city that will not only last, but thrive.

About the authors

Ellen Honigstock
Ellen is Director of Education Development with Urban Green Council.