Building the future: Offshore wind industry aims to take advantage of N.J.’s vaunted labor pool

Brett Johnson | ROI-NJ

In New Jersey and elsewhere, the offshore wind sector is blowing up. There are 15 active leases for offshore wind development across the country, representing almost 30 gigawatts of capacity and about 83,000 jobs in the next decade, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

And all that capacity will be mostly built out by a labor pool taking its very first dive into offshore wind projects.

Before New Jersey leaders were able to tout the potential jobs that came with the package of the increasingly set-in-stone offshore wind projects — setting the stage for Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal of harboring 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2035 — contractors bidding on those projects had to believe in the potential for regional talent to pull that off.

Wind energy companies, such as the industry’s global leader, Ørsted, seem to have been convinced from the start. When asked why the Garden State, the answer has never been devoid of a nod to New Jersey’s labor pool.

Allison Ziogas, who serves as U.S. labor relations manager for the Denmark-based Ørsted, said even as the offshore wind movement in New Jersey moves into a new phase — in which that boasted-about talent base has to mold itself to a brand-new local industry — they’re still believers.

“We continue to believe that New Jersey has a large pool of skilled workers that are ready for this opportunity,” she said. “While it might be that many of these workers may require some additional training — as there is some industry-specific knowledge — we believe that the state is well-positioned for this rapid offshore wind industry growth.”

Most of that catching up is being done in concert with trade unions. Ørsted recently entered into an agreement with North America’s Building Trades Unions, an organization that represents more than 3 million workers across the country.

As part of that partnership, the labor group and its local affiliates are working to prepare union construction workers for everything involved in offshore wind sector work.

“We signed that MOU and committed our entire portfolio of projects to be built out under project labor agreements because we value the training resources and capacity that trades have built up,” Ziogas said. “And New Jersey’s building and construction trades have a long and successful history of project execution and a really good safety record, which we highly value.”

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