BlocPower’s Civilian Climate Corps program has an ambitious dual aim: expand the green workforce while advancing racial and climate justice.
That program just got a big infusion of cash from New York City that could help it reach even more communities. Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that the city is investing $54 million into the Precision Employment Initiative, the city’s name for the program.
The scaled up program will train up to 3,000 New Yorkers and connect them to job opportunities in the green economy, including solar and heat pump installation and EV charger maintenance. BlocPower primarily focuses on electrifying buildings.
The program serves New Yorkers in communities affected by gun violence and aims to reduce unemployment and increase public safety. BlocPower’s work to electrify buildings also means that residents in those neighborhoods will save money on utility bills and live in more comfortable homes.
“If we want less crime on our streets, we must make sure people are employed and they see the opportunities of the future,” Mayor Adams said at a press conference at BlocPower’s Bedford-Stuyvesant training center. “Green jobs are going to bring green dollars into communities and really put people on a pathway of success.”
The program is open to residents in five neighborhoods with the highest rates of gun violence: East New York, Flatbush and East Flatbush, Far Rockaway, Harlem, and Melrose. The majority of current and prior participants were previously underemployed or unemployed and part of “Black and brown communities that have been historically left out of the emerging profitable green sector,” Adams said.
This is the second year of the program, which began in 2021 under the de Blasio administration. The original program was funded by a $37 million contract administered by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, using money from the Cares Act.
Out of the 1,300 participants who have gone through the Civilian Climate Corps, 30% have been placed in full-time green jobs, and 62% of them have passed Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, which is critical to securing most of those jobs.
“Growing up not too far from here in Brooklyn, I remember learning about two forms of waste that were happening in the community,” BlocPower founder and CEO Donnel Baird said at the press conference. “One was the waste of fossil fuels and energy in our homes. … The other waste was a waste of human potential.”
New York has a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Two-thirds of those emissions come from buildings, which means electrification and increasing energy efficiency are critical if the city wants to reach that target. New York has taken some steps to get there, including a gas ban in all new construction by 2027, as well as passing Local Law 97, which requires most buildings over 25,000 square feet to start lowering emissions drastically or start ratcheting up fines. The city is also retrofitting public housing with window heat pumps, which don’t rely on fossil fuels for heating or cooling.
All that work requires trained labor, and right now, there’s a shortage. The Civilian Climate Corps could help fill that gap while also ensuring that disadvantaged communities aren’t getting left behind in the rush to electrify everything. Instead, they could be helping lead it.
Other cities, including Ithaca and Menlo Park, have also announced ambitious new climate targets and partnerships with BlocPower to help them achieve the building decarbonization parts of them. Menlo Park is also exploring the creation of its own green jobs training program, which could launch early next year.
Baird said BlocPower is actively working on duplicating this program in other cities to help them address the labor shortages in their communities while preparing the local workforce for green economy jobs. “There’s a lot of excitement. We do think it is a model for different cities across the country,” he said.