Energy Department Funds First IACs at Community Colleges, Trade Unions

DOE is providing community colleges and trade unions $32 million to establish Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), promoting workforce training for energy jobs.
Blog Post
Through the DOE's IAC program, community colleges and trade unions will receive new funding to promote equitable workforce development for green jobs, including jobs that do not require degrees.
Bing Image Creator
Nov. 27, 2023

This article was produced as part of New America's Initiative on the Future of Work and the Innovation Economy. Subscribe to our Future of Work Updates & Events newsletter to stay current on our latest work. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Story highlights:

  • For the first time in 40+ years, the U.S. Department of Energy is funding community colleges and trade unions to host Industrial Assessment Centers.
  • The IACs provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with improved energy efficiency while providing students with hands-on learning opportunities.
  • Another funding opportunity for community colleges, trade unions is coming in 2024.

Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced nearly $32 million in grant funding to seventeen new hosts of Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC). These are the first IACs to be located at community colleges, trade unions, and union training programs since the program was launched in 1976.

Now numbering fifty-four in total, the Energy Department’s IACs have a dual mission. IAC hosts provide free energy assessments for small and medium-sized manufacturers to identify opportunities to reduce waste, save on energy costs, and improve productivity. In doing so, they provide students and union apprentices with hands-on learning opportunities relating to evaluations and implementation projects that broaden pathways to jobs in the energy sector.

“We are absolutely thrilled to expand this historic program, which has been operating for over 40 years, to for the first time include vocational, trade, and community colleges, in addition to four-year universities,” shared Giulia Siccardo, Director of the Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains, in an email statement.

“With every IAC project, the students who participate gain valuable hands-on shopfloor experience, while manufacturers gain a technical consulting assessment that might otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s the definition of a win-win.”

2023 U.S. DOE-Funded Industrial Assessment Centers

Why DOE Expanded IACs to Community Colleges, Trade Unions

A map of DOE's Industrial Assessment Center, new and existing.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Until now, IACs were only located at universities, but the Energy Department believes that community colleges and trade unions are needed to fulfill the program’s mission.

First, the DOE believes that IACs at community colleges and trade unions will help address workforce shortages in the manufacturing sector.

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers and Deloitte has projected that 2 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030 due to a lack of adequate workforce preparation.

IACs can help students and apprentices gain real-world experiences with employers to garner skills needed for jobs in the clean energy sector, including those identified by the DOE’s U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs Report, many of which don’t require a degree.

These jobs include careers as building energy managers, insulators and HVAC professionals, advanced manufacturing technicians, and skilled technical workers in emerging clean energy sectors like batteries, additive, and solar manufacturing as well as water management. The DOE also hopes the IACs could promote more registered apprenticeships across community colleges and trade unions.

Secondly, the IACs at community colleges and trade unions can offer manufacturers a broader range of energy efficiency services to complement services offered by universities, such as hands-on support for installation needs at the technician level. While some university-based IACs include community college partners, most engage students within their engineering or science programs.

Finally, the DOE hopes that IACs at community colleges and unions could help the program address equity and meet President Biden’s Justice40 executive order. Justice40 aims to ensure that at least forty percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. These include communities that community colleges and trade unions serve.

Six of the community college grantees are considered minority-serving institutions or systems including Imperial Valley Community College District, MiraCosta College, Community College of Rhode Island, Illinois Community College Board, Atlanta Technical College, and Arizona Western College.

The expansion of IACs represent an opportunity for new 4-year and 2-year partnerships. Wichita State University in Kansas operates an IAC, and WSU Tech, its affiliate community college, now has an IAC of its own as one of the 2023 awardees.

"The expansion of the IAC program to 2-year institutions is not about competition but recognizing the unique strengths each type of institution brings to the table," shared Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech and Vice President of Workforce Development for Wichita State University, in an email statement, "2-year institutions can provide agile, industry-focused education and immediate workforce integration, while 4-year institutions contribute research-driven insights and a broader academic foundation."

More Funding for Community Colleges, Trade Unions in 2024

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm pictured with students, alumni, and instructors at San Bernandino Valley College.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

As the Biden Administration seeks to advance its 2050 Net Zero Goal, the new IACs represent an opportunity to align clean energy transition with equitable career preparation. The administration looking to community colleges and trade unions to play a key role across a variety of programs.

Announced as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the IACs follow on the heels of the Energy Department’s recently announced $7 billion Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub selectees which also emphasized the role of labor unions and community colleges in aligning technology and talent development.

In the coming months, the IAC Program will release additional opportunities to expand the network of IACs at community colleges, trade schools, and union training programs (including combined labor-management training programs).

The next funding opportunity will be announced in early 2024.

To become competitive for the upcoming funding opportunity, DOE urges applicants to consider how their organization can fulfill the dual mission of the IACs–advancing workforce development and energy efficiency for small and medium-sized manufacturers.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to begin analyzing their local energy efficiency labor market, strengthen relationships with small and medium-sized manufacturers, and partners with expertise in energy efficiency including existing IACs. The DOE urges applicants to strategize how winning an IAC would advance the college or trade union’s broader contributions to workforce development and regional economic development focused on clean energy.

Interested organizations should subscribe to the DOE’s Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains newsletter and reach out to with any questions about the IAC program.

Shalin Jyotishi is New America's Senior Advisor for Education, Labor, and the Future of Work. Follow Shalin on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Related Topics
Workforce Development & CTE