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The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has announced the creation of a competitive grant program that will help New Jerseyans, particularly those in New Jersey Overburdened Communities, develop skills for careers in offshore wind.

Approved by the NJEDA’s Board at its September 14 meeting, the $3.725 million Offshore Wind Workforce and Skills Development Grant Challenge (Grant Challenge) will offer grants to selected entities that will aid in launching or expanding innovative workforce training and skills programs focused on strengthening and diversifying New Jersey’s offshore wind workforce.

“Offshore wind is driving an abundance of skilled jobs in New Jersey, and Gov. Phil Murphy is committed to ensuring the state’s workforce keeps pace with the needs of offshore wind companies investing here,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “We have a responsibility to ensure that New Jerseyans are adequately and safely trained for these good-paying opportunities. We look forward to partnering with entities with expertise and creative workforce development solutions that will advance these goals in an equitable and inclusive way.”

The Grant Challenge is part of NJEDA’s efforts to establish the NJ Wind Institute for Innovation and Training (the “Wind Institute”) as an independent entity created through legislation. The Wind Institute will coordinate and deploy resources to advance offshore wind workforce development, research, and innovation in the state.

Announcement of the Grant Challenge follows Governor Murphy’s signing of Executive Order No. 307 last week, increasing New Jersey’s offshore wind goal by nearly 50 percent to 11,000 megawatts (MW) by 2040. The Executive Order, which increases the state’s current goal of 7,500 MW, also directs the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) to study the feasibility of increasing the target further.

Accompanying the Executive Order, Governor Murphy also announced the release of the Green Jobs for a Sustainable Future report, created by the New Jersey Council on the Green Economy in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy. The report outlines recommendations and pathways for growing a demographically representative and inclusive green workforce as New Jersey pursues its aggressive new offshore wind target.

Through the Grant Challenge, entities that can provide skill development, workforce training, job placement, and other related services to develop, implement, or expand workforce development initiatives in offshore wind can apply for grants of between $100,000 and $1 million to create their proposed programs.

Priority in this grant challenge will be given to applicants or applicant teams that propose initiatives supporting training and job access for residents of Overburdened Communities. Grants will be awarded to proposals that achieve the highest overall scores based on the established proposal scoring criteria. Organizations looking to collaborate can submit an optional Potential Collaborator Form by Oct. 20.

An informational webinar will be held on Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. Application deadlines for the Grant Challenge will be announced in the coming months. More information on the Grant Challenge can be found at here.

The Grant Challenge will be open to entities that can design and execute workforce and skills training programs. Such entities may include, but are not limited to, community-based organizations, workforce training organizations, labor unions, workforce placement intermediaries, technical high schools, community colleges, universities, non-profits, regional workforce development boards, and private companies.

“As we pursue our clean energy future and increased offshore wind development goals, it’s crucial that we develop a skilled and inclusive workforce to support our growing clean energy economy,” said Jane Cohen, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy. “Establishing accessible pathways for entrance into good-paying jobs with wage parity and long-term career prospects will help position all New Jerseyans to enjoy the optimal benefits of the state’s clean energy transition.”

Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with additional entities, including for-profit or non-profit entities, to design and implement the training program as needed. All applications must include at least one 501(c)(3) Community-Based Organization with demonstrated experience serving a New Jersey Overburdened Community, that provides direct services or supports to a specific geographic NJ community(ies) or specific segments of a New Jersey community(ies). For the purposes of this Grant Challenge, government entities, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher learning do not qualify as Community-Based Organizations. However, these entities may be the primary applicant or an additional collaborator on the applicant team.

This Grant Challenge will support training needs identified in a recently conducted offshore wind workforce assessment. The study concluded New Jersey’s target for 7.5 GW of offshore wind and accompanying infrastructure investments is projected to result in 20,000 new jobs in 2030 across numerous sectors of the state’s economy, including construction, manufacturing, and professional services. This study can be accessed here.

This Grant Challenge complements work currently underway toward the creation of the Wind Institute, including: the construction of a Global Wind Organization safety training facility at Atlantic Cape Community College; the development of a wind turbine technician training program at Rowan College of South Jersey; the expansion of welding and painting programs for offshore wind at Gloucester County Institute of Technology and Salem County Vocational Technical School; and the launch of an offshore wind research fellowship program for juniors, seniors and graduate students at Rutgers University, Rowan University, Montclair State University, and the NJ Institute of Technology.

Current Wind Institute-related programs are funded through an agreement between NJEDA and the NJBPU.