Senate Committee Passes Bennet, Gardner Bill to Train Veterans for Careers in Innovative Sectors of the American Energy Industry

Washington, D.C. — Bipartisan legislation introduced by Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner unanimously passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee today and will now be considered by the full Senate. The Energy Jobs for our Heroes Act would help ease the transition back to civilian life for servicemembers and strengthen the economy by connecting employers in the fast-growing solar, wind, nuclear, and cyber energy industries with talented, highly-skilled veterans who possess the needed training and credentials to succeed.

“Our Energy Ready Vets Program will connect our veterans, who are already uniquely qualified to succeed in cutting-edge industries, with the clean energy industry that is quickly growing and seeking high skilled workers,” said Bennet. “For years, Colorado has been working to ensure our veterans have the necessary skills and training to compete in the 21st century economy while also creating pathways for them to enter the clean energy industry. I’m thrilled to see the Senate follow Colorado’s lead and pass our bipartisan bill out of committee – we’ll continue working together to move this bill forward in the Senate.”

“I’m a strong advocate for advancing clean energy solutions, and this important bipartisan legislation not only strengthens our renewable energy sector, it also bolsters opportunities for qualified veterans to transition into the civilian workforce,” said Gardner. “Military experience provides invaluable education, leadership and education skills and I’m pleased the committee has approved this bipartisan legislation to help connect our heroes with this rapidly expanding sector of our economy.”

The bipartisan Energy Jobs for our Heroes Act—which was re-introduced this March by Bennet, Gardner, and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)—would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to develop the “Energy Ready Vets Program” to provide veterans with training and credentials to secure good paying jobs in the low-carbon and zero-carbon emissions sectors of the energy industry, such as wind, solar and cyber-energy fields. The program would be led by an Administrator with military experience and offer veterans and members of the Armed Forces six-month internships to gain hands-on training and skills. It would also establish a labeling program that recognizes companies that are hiring graduates of these programs in order to encourage them to hire veterans.

Bennet first introduced the Energy Jobs for our Heroes Act in June 2018 with Duckworth and Graham, following a commitment received in March 2018 from Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to work on advancing the legislation. Last year, the Senate unanimously passed a Bennet-Gardner-Duckworth amendment included in the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill to lay the groundwork for the Energy Ready Vets Program. That amendment required the Departments of Energy and Defense to evaluate which military installations could effectively partner with colleges and private companies to train veterans and servicemembers to enter the cybersecurity, energy and artificial intelligence workforces.

The U.S. military has been a leader in developing clean energy technology. The Army, Navy, and Air Force have set a goal, which the Navy has already achieved, of developing one gigawatt of renewable energy to power their installations by 2025 – enough to power about 700,000 U.S. homes. As a result, many servicemembers and veterans already have the technical skills that make them great fits for the wind and solar industries, both of which employ veterans at higher rates than the rest of our economy. According to the Department of Energy, veterans make up 11.5% and 11.1% of the wind and solar workforce respectively.