Building the clean energy workforce of tomorrow

Q&A with PGE’s green jobs expert

Feb. 12, 2024

To create the clean energy future Oregonians want, we need workers of all kinds: EV charger installers, linemen, construction workers, policymakers, science educators, and many more. But hiring and training for these positions, while ensuring that our workforce reflects the diversity of our communities, is easier said than done.

We spoke with PGE’s Brooke Brownlee, who manages the company’s workforce, labor & economic prosperity efforts, to answer some questions about how PGE is tackling this challenge.

What is PGE’s strategy for developing a skilled, diverse workforce for our industry and company?

Brooke's answer: PGE’s strategy is focused on how we can provide equitable and inclusive career opportunities for populations who are underrepresented in the energy workforce today – and for those most affected by climate change. This means leading the state in our advocacy for creating high quality jobs within the clean energy sector and partnering with pre-apprenticeship programs, workforce and community-based organizations that serve underrepresented populations. Our union partners are also critical. I like to say that we rely on a lot of other people in the state doing their job well in order for us to do our job well too. From weatherization to construction to HVAC, we are a connected system such that if one part is failing, we all fail.

In 2022, PGE convened the Oregon Clean Energy Workforce Coalition (OCEWC), which is a group of nearly 70 organizations from around the state that are connected to the clean energy workforce. The coalition includes unions, workforce development boards, local/state/Tribal governments, utilities, community-based organizations, training providers and other employers. The OCEWC’s work is not about one individual organization, but rather how we can collectively work together to build a skilled, inclusive workforce.

Why are investments in workforce development important?

Brooke's answer: Our industry is undergoing rapid transformation, changing how we generate electricity and creating technologies to decarbonize the power system. Workforce development is a critical component of this transformation, to ensure we have enough people with the skills required to enact this transition.

Generally speaking, our industry has a bit of a branding problem. Most kids aren’t saying they want to work for a utility when they grow up, unless they know someone who works in the industry. This means we need to invest in K-12 education programs that teach younger generations about career possibilities available to them. It also means supporting the creation of quality, family-wage jobs with attractive benefits so workers want to stay in the industry long term.

"Investing in people from different backgrounds, skillsets and mindsets will help create the innovative environment needed to build the clean energy future that customers demand."

Why does this topic matter to you personally?

Brooke's answer: When I was young, my dad told me to never work a day longer than you have to in a job that you hate. I’ve held that value my entire career. I ended up in my career based on an internship I had in college with the Port of Portland in their Community Affairs department. I learned about a career pathway I didn’t even know existed, and it allowed me to find opportunities to do work that I love professionally, and to volunteer my time with several organizations connected to this space. The opportunities provided to me through that internship program are not available to everyone – but they should be.

One of the areas I’m most passionate about is providing opportunities for those who have been formerly incarcerated. Through a grant the OCEWC received from the U.S. Depart of Labor, we are expanding a pre-apprenticeship program at three correctional facilities across the state. Upon release, those program graduates will have easier entry into apprenticeship programs at one of the three union crafts (cement masons, ironworkers and bricklayers). I had the opportunity to speak to the first three cohorts of this program at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, and it has been incredibly rewarding and exciting. The women in these programs are so excited about supporting the clean energy transition and have the kinds of curious minds we will need to support the transformation of our sector.

What's next?

Brooke's answer: Our big focus over the next year will be conducting a statewide workforce market assessment, funded by another grant we just received from Jobs for the Future. This study will help us better understand workforce needs and obstacles in the state, and develop a roadmap for OCEWC’s next steps. We now have millions of dollars going toward building the workforce of the future in Oregon to support the clean energy transition. I’m so excited about the work ahead of us!

"This work was born out the realization that we cannot solve the workforce shortage on our own. By convening people with shared interests, we know we can accelerate planning for our future workforce at PGE while benefitting many."

- Anne Mersereau, vice president of Human Resources, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

A participant in the pre-apprenticeship program offered at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

A national leader in the development of a clean energy workforce

The Oregon Clean Energy Workforce Coalition was selected as one of just 10 local partners to advance in Jobs for the Future’s Quality Green Jobs Regional Challenge PGE. As a semifinalist in this competitive grant, the coalition will begin conducting a study to better understand workforce needs and opportunities in Oregon.

About Portland General Electric Company
Portland General Electric (NYSE: POR) is a fully integrated energy company that generates, transmits and distributes electricity to over 900,000 customers in 51 cities across the state of Oregon. For more than 130 years, Portland General Electric (PGE) has powered the advancement of society, delivering safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy. To deliver on its strategy and meet state targets, PGE and its approximately 3,000 employees committed to partnering with stakeholders to achieve at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from power served to customers by 2030 and 100% reduction by 2040. PGE customers set the standard for prioritizing clean energy with the No. 1 voluntary renewable energy program in the country. Additionally, for the fifth year in a row, PGE was recognized by the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index which highlights companies committed to creating a more equal and inclusive workplace. As a reflection of the company's commitment to the community it serves, in 2022, PGE employees, retirees and the PGE Foundation donated nearly $5.5 million and volunteered more than 18,000 hours with more than 400 nonprofits across Oregon. For more information visit

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