EDA, BPU launch $3M Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge

Challenge, held in conjunction with state’s Office of Higher Education, is aimed at training workers in booming sector

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education announced Thursday the New Jersey Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge, a new $3 million program launched with funding from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities that will help establish an industry-recognized Global Wind Organization safety training program and facility to prepare state workers for jobs in the growing offshore wind industry.

The Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge will provide New Jersey-based academic institutions and training providers, including labor unions, an opportunity to submit proposals for establishing a GWO-accredited Basic Safety and Sea Survival Training program and facility in the state. The winning applicant will receive a grant of up to $3 million to support implementation of the program and construction of the facility. Funding for the grant comes from the NJBPU’s New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program.

Applications for the challenge will open March 15.

Applicants will submit detailed proposals describing their planned programs. These proposals will be reviewed by an evaluation committee comprised of OSHE and NJEDA staff. The highest-scoring proposal will receive a grant of up to $3 million, based on project costs outlined in the application. OSHE and the NJEDA anticipate announcing the winner during summer 2021.

Offshore wind is a rapidly expanding international industry that Gov. Phil Murphy has prioritized as a target sector for driving long-term, sustainable economic growth. The NJEDA has spearheaded initiatives to grow the industry in New Jersey, including the New Jersey Wind Port, a first-of-its-kind offshore wind manufacturing and marshalling facility located in Salem County, and a state-of-the-art monopile manufacturing facility located at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal.

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said offshore wind has “unparalleled potential” to drive long-term, sustainable economic growth.

“Because the industry is so new, we have a unique chance to ensure equitable access to the economic opportunities it creates,” he said. “Establishing a Global Wind Organization safety training program and facility in New Jersey will make jobs in offshore wind more accessible to New Jersey residents and will help to establish the state as a hub of the growing American offshore wind industry. The NJEDA is proud to partner with NJBPU and OSHE to launch the Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge as the first step toward achieving this important goal.”

Murphy’s economic development plan identifies offshore wind as a strategic sector for accelerating economic growth.

To ensure equitable access to the economic opportunities this project and other offshore wind initiatives create, Murphy established the WIND Council in 2019 to engage industry and local stakeholder groups to evaluate New Jersey’s existing workforce development assets and identify gaps that must be addressed to strengthen the state’s leadership position in offshore wind.

Last April, the WIND Council released a report summarizing its recommendations. One of the key workforce development needs the WIND Council identified is the creation of opportunities for workers to receive Global Wind Organization Basic Safety and Sea Survival Training.

The GWO is a nonprofit body founded by leading wind turbine manufacturers and operators that aims to support an injury-free environment in the wind industry. It has set the industry-recognized standard for safety training and many manufacturers and owners of wind turbines require workers to obtain certifications by completing these trainings. To achieve New Jersey’s target of generating 7,500 megawatts by 2035, at least 1,825 workers will need to complete GWO Basic Safety and Sea Survival Training between 2023 and 2036.

“Training and certifying New Jersey workers for jobs in offshore wind is a critical aspect of growing this important new industry in New Jersey and will ensure in-state candidates can benefit from its many exciting, once-in-a-generation opportunities,” BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said.

Acting Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges agreed.

“Providing equitable access to innovative opportunities is vital to building a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy that works for all residents,” he said. “Collaboration between the employer community and the higher education sector is essential to further strengthening the workforce and economy that the state needs to sustain a robust pipeline of highly-skilled workers and assure that the postsecondary-to-employment ecosystem is well-positioned for the future.

“We are excited to work with the NJEDA to establish the Offshore Wind Safety Training Challenge to build on opportunities for residents to gain access to the critical training, education and skills required to compete for in-demand jobs.”