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Ørsted, U.S. Building Trades Union Form Training Partnership for Offshore Wind

Offshore wind giant Ørsted and North America’s Building Trades Union (NABTU) have arrived at a deal to train a construction work force for the new projects the Danish company expects to build along the East Coast of the United States.

“We are working to proactively develop a plan to transition organized labour into the offshore industry,” Ørsted North America CEO David Hardy told Reuters. “We want to work with the NABTU to create a framework for an offshore wind construction work force for all offshore windfarms we will operate.”

“We think it is so timely with where the country finds itself now,” said Sean McGarvey, president of the three-million-member NABTU. “There is major renewable investment across the east coast that will achieve a just transition for people who will perform the work.”

Up to now, “labour unions have been wary of a rapid transition to renewable energy over concerns it will lead to a net loss of middle-class, career-sustaining jobs,” Reuters writes. The deal between Ørsted and NABTU “aims to create a model for the nascent offshore wind industry in the United States at a time President-elect Joe Biden is promising to usher in a swift transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind to fight climate change.”

The news agency notes that Ørsted built its offshore wind project off Rhode Island, the only utility-scale installation to date in the U.S., with union labour. That project became a “beta test” for the national agreement, McGarvey said.

“This will show how as we move and transform our energy production in North America, it can be done at middle-class wages and good benefits packages,” he told Reuters. “Anything else is not acceptable.”

While the two partners had no details on the number of workers who would be trained, they said they will “work to identify the skills necessary to accelerate the creation of an offshore work force, and partner on training and certification to ready workers to build new projects,” Reuters says.