DOE and DOL announce new effort to support and expand America’s Battery Workforce

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), have announced the release of the Battery Workforce Initiative (BWI)’s National Guideline Standards for registered apprenticeships for battery machine operators. The DOL-certified guidelines, created in partnership with battery manufacturers, community colleges, and unions, lay out rigorous training requirements to support the skilled workforce needed in this rapidly growing industry as electric vehicle (EV) sales have quadrupled and nearly 300 new or expanded battery facilities have been announced since President Biden took office. Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, joined Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin and UAW President Shawn Fain in Lansing, MI to announce BWI’s new Standards alongside industry, workers, educators, and students at UAW Local 652Union Hall, near the Ultium factory being constructed with support from DOE’s Loan Program Office.

“President Biden is leading a renaissance in American manufacturing, and nowhere is that more evident than with the rapid growth of investment in electric vehicle production,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we have seen over 400 EV and battery manufacturing facilities announced in the U.S. in just three years, underscoring the need for a strong and supported skilled workforce.  The Battery Workforce Initiative is part of our whole-of-government approach to revitalize industry and rebuild our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, providing American workers with good paying forward looking careers.”

“Good jobs have the power to change lives, and today, we are expanding the pathways into those good jobs through Registered Apprenticeships in the fast-growing battery manufacturing industry,” said U.S. Acting Secretary of Labor Julie A. Su. “In just under a year, the Battery Workforce Initiative has built a strong partnership between government, industry, technology, and labor to make sure workers, including those who have historically been shut out of opportunities, can find their place in the middle class now and well into the future.”

“The Battery Workforce initiative is a perfect example of how agencies and community college partners can come together to create new career pathways into the clean energy workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “This is a step toward the coherent, cross-sector approach to workforce development we need so we can prepare people to succeed in good jobs that align with the historic investments we’re making.”

The new Standards will inform BWI training materials for companies and training providers. Curricula is currently under development to support DOE’s broader efforts to deploy workforce education activities for battery manufacturing including BWI’s Pilot Training Project and the Battery Workforce Challenge (BWC) Program Regional Workforce Training (RWT) Hubs Project. DOE’s National Energy Technology Lab will launch the BWI Pilot Training in April, and the Argonne National Laboratory will launch BWC’s RWT Hubs in Summer 2024.

The new Standards mark a major milestone for a national workforce strategy that enables a rapid expansion of high-quality training and education programs in advanced battery manufacturing. By facilitating upfront industry engagement and alignment, on a complete package of training materials and guidelines, the DOE-DOL collaboration speeds up DOL’s approval process for new battery training programs and provides the foundation for national credentials. The BWI materials create a clear pathway for training sponsors to leverage public funds for workforce development, meet the needs of battery manufacturers, and provide career-track pathways for workers to succeed and advance in the battery manufacturing industry.

“After spending 48 years in the battery industry and having worked in the world’s largest lithium battery manufacturing operations, I know that training is the key to a successful battery industry. I congratulate the Department of Energy for bringing stakeholders together through the Battery Workforce Initiative to jumpstart the high-quality training the industry needs.  BWI will accelerate our return to global technology leadership and help create more middle-class jobs.” said Bob Galyen, the Chief Technology Officer for NAATBatt and SAE International Fellow.

Since 2022, BWI has convened meetings and engaged with hundreds of stakeholders representing established and emerging manufacturers, academia, and labor groups. This important engagement has enabled meaningful exchange of perspectives on current and future workforce development needs with the goal of understanding the needs of both American workers and industry.

Next on the BWI’s agenda is to look at other jobs in the battery supply chain. BWI has already started convening stakeholders working on battery-grade materials processing and recycling to map out the skills requirements for that work.

BWI’s strategic partnerships across agencies, including with the Department of Education, leverages historic investments in clean energy industries. As a critical pillar of President Biden’s whole-of-government decarbonization strategy, this collaborative effort is set to increase the nation’s global competitiveness as clean energy investments drive rapid development and manufacturing across the world.