California’s Climate Investments and High Road Workforce Standards: Gaps and Opportunities for Advancing Workforce Equity

Sam Appeland Jessie HF Hammerling

Press Coverage


California continues to lead the nation in charting a path to economy-wide decarbonization. On this path, the state has committed to pursuing a high road transition that prioritizes the development of a sustainable economy grounded in equity for workers and communities.

In our 2020 report Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030 (JCAP), commissioned by the California Legislature in Assembly Bill 398 (Garcia, 2017), the UC Berkeley Labor Center offered guidance for policymakers on how to ensure an equitable energy transition for workers in California. That report describes clear, proven strategies for maximizing the creation of high-quality jobs across the low-carbon economy, broadening opportunities for workers of color and workers from historically marginalized communities, delivering the skilled workforce needed to achieve California’s climate targets, and protecting workers in transitioning industries.

This report presents a current snapshot of the state’s progress in implementing several of these strategies by examining the integration of high road workforce standards across California’s climate investments. Specifically, we review existing high road standard policies in California, and assess the reach of high road standards across the state’s proposed climate investments in California’s 2022-23 state budget.


  • The Legislature, California agencies, and the Governor have made clear indications of support for a high road approach to the transition to a low-carbon economy and to workforce standards in particular. Additionally, the state has a strong foundation of workforce standards policies in the construction sector to build on, but significant opportunities remain for improvement.
  • About 60% ($19 billion) of the state’s projected climate investments budget through 2026 incorporates a workforce standard. Public works construction and utility-scale energy construction constitute the vast majority of programs with standards, while clean economy manufacturing, plant and transportation operations, land, technical, and other services, and residential building upgrades largely lack any form of workforce standard.
  • Where workforce standards exist, as in the construction sector, programs could be improved by incorporating stronger training and targeted hire requirements (e.g., community workforce agreements) to build career pipelines for workers of color and historically excluded workers.
  • Increased interagency coordination and capacity will be needed to comprehensively design, adopt and implement workforce standards across climate investments. Agencies can also take the prerogative to adopt and strengthen workforce standards under their own authority.
  • Programs that do not incorporate workforce standards represent untapped potential for California to capture the full value of its climate investments to improve job quality and job equity across the state, increase unionization, and ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy maximizes economic benefits and shared prosperity for all Californians.

In this report we provide analysis that supports these conclusions and offer recommendations to accelerate progress toward a comprehensive approach to high road workforce standards in California.

Download the full report.


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