New nonprofit aims to increase access to clean energy jobs for people of color

N.J. Offshore Equity wants to ensure accessible, equitable and high-quality jobs opportunities in sector reflect state’s workforce

It seems everyone wants to participate in the fast-growing offshore wind energy sector in the state.

A new New Jersey offshore equity community development corporation aims to make sure everyone can.

The faith-based CDC, in partnership with founding funder Rise Light & Power, announced this week plans to implement workforce and training programs in Middlesex County and throughout New Jersey that increase job opportunities in the offshore wind industry among Black, indigenous and people of color.

A major focus of the New Jersey Offshore Wind Workforce and Equity Community Development Corp. will be diversifying employment in New Jersey’s blossoming clean energy industry — especially as the state’s offshore wind energy production expands — to ensure that accessible, equitable and high-quality job opportunities reflect the state’s workforce, they said.

A Memorandum of Understanding formalizing the partnership was celebrated at the former Werner Generating Station in South Amboy that Rise proposes to develop into an offshore wind hub.

Joseph Woods, chair of N.J. Offshore Equity CDC’s founding board of trustees, said the group will encourage other developers to join the partnership to ensure New Jersey’s offshore wind workforce reflects the state’s rich diversity.

“Clean energy, and offshore wind power, in particular, offers the prospect of good-paying jobs in emerging industries,” he said. “It’s important for everyone in the community to have an opportunity to secure those jobs.”

The group aims to oversee, govern and manage grant funds to support education and technical assistance to enhance the development of New Jersey’s clean energy workforce, beginning with a focus on Middlesex County, the most diverse county in New Jersey, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data. The board anticipates growing and including additional members.

Planned activities include:

  • Developing and implementing an action plan to identify and prioritize programs addressing obstacles to meaningful employment in the offshore wind industry;
  • Establishing and strengthening partnerships with key organizations and institutions;
  • Identifying and applying for grant funding.

Woods announced that Rise has committed to contribute $1 million to N.J. Offshore Equity CDC to help address racial workforce barriers if the company receives state approval to construct the Outerbridge Renewable Connector in South Amboy. The planned project would deliver electricity from offshore wind farms to the state’s power grid, powering up to 1.4 million homes in New Jersey.

“New Jersey’s faith community has long been a champion for creating economic opportunities, especially for BIPOC communities,” Rise CEO Clint Plummer said. “We look forward to working with these experienced leaders as they break down barriers, sustain collaborations and administer a variety of programs to expand the state’s offshore wind workforce to enhance equitable access to good-paying jobs.”

In connection with its Outerbridge project, Rise has committed to establishing vendor agreements that include hiring expectations to increase the proportion of BIPOC workers and formerly incarcerated individuals in the offshore wind industry.

“As a formerly incarcerated person, I know how transformative it is when doors open and there is help to alleviate workforce reentry barriers,” Vice Chair Al-Tariq Witcher said. “That’s our goal — offering equitable job opportunities to hard-working people who are seeking a fresh start to lead a successful, productive life and contribute their skills and talent to this budding industry.”

Rise also plans to deploy the Jingoli Competitive Edge Program, which includes summer employment and career readiness opportunities for youth and adults as well as a “train-to hire” program associated with the proposed Outerbridge project; and collaborating with Middlesex College to develop workforce readiness programs focused on the offshore wind industry.