Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

The City of Austin Innovation Office, Equity Office, Sustainability Office, and Economic Development Department have joined together to promote climate justice and equitable access to green jobs. Green jobs are ones that result in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

We’re launching this grant program to research and design ways to close the gap on workforce development approaches for communities of color, specifically for the green jobs sector, while also stimulating a) the number of organizations discussing equitable pathways to green jobs, and b) partnerships between trusted community-based organizations, potential green job employers, and training/education institutions.

You can find more details about the grant here.


Congratulations to our first cohort of grant awardees!

EcoRise is piloting a program that will prepare AISD high school students to obtain the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED GA certification, and gain professional experiences in the architecture and green building fields through an internship program with the UT School of Architecture and BLGY Architecture.

Central South Carpenters Regional Council is partnering with American Youthworks, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 520, and local employers to create a pilot program which provides young people in east Austin the training, certifications, and experience required to become professionals in the renewable energy sector.

Solar Austin is partnering with Huston-Tillotson University to pilot a new clean energy jobs internship program that will provide women and students of color with culturally-informed pathways to gain training, experience, and placement in high-paying solar and clean energy jobs in Austin.


A changing climate can negatively impact where and how we live, work, play, and learn. Climate hazards do not impact everyone equally. Austin’s most vulnerable and underserved communities in the eastern crescent are disproportionately affected due to historic underinvestment, limited resources, growth pressures, health inequities, and low paying jobs.

Yet, we can make opportunities out of constraints. Brookings Institution researchers found that mean hourly wages in green energy sector jobs are anywhere from 8 to 19 percent higher than the national average wage. And for entry-level jobs in this same sector, they find a $5 to $10 per hour pay premium compared to other enty-level jobs.

Equitable access to higher paying jobs in the green sector can lead to positive outcomes now and in the future. In addition to increasing household financial resilience and community-wide climate resilience by focusing on equitable access to green jobs, we can also take another step towards racial equity – the condition when race no longer predicts a person’s quality of life outcomes in our community.

What We Want to Learn

To increase equitable access to green jobs in Austin, we need three things:

Close the gap on workforce development approaches for communities of color: Communities of color have a high drop-out rate from training, and there is another gap between completing training and receiving the benefit of a high paying job. This may be due to a stigma against certain jobs, a daunting lack of diversity in hiring organizations, or inadvertent exclusion through lack of cultural competence and humility. Training organizations may fail to offer the right space to develop youth of color from low-income families. What we need to catalyze equitable workforce development approaches is a blueprint for the Austin community that is researched based on lived experience.

Better understand Austin’s green jobs sector: While Austin has focused on “green technology” in terms of innovation, we have not specifically focused on employment in the green jobs sector. Where are the green jobs in Austin? What are the training and development pathways to these jobs? Which organizations are prepared to support diversity and inclusion goals? What we need to catalyze equitable access to green jobs is 1) market research on which green jobs exist in Austin, 2) employers are most prepared to support diversity/inclusion goals, and 3) and understanding of the education and training pathways to those jobs.

Green jobs are ones that result in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Categories of green jobs can include both the production of goods and services, as well as using environmentally-friendly processes and practices. Green economy sectors and jobs are wide-ranging, and include (but are not limited to):

  • Building design, construction, and operations (electricians, plumbers, carpenters, architects, construction workers, HVAC technicians, facilities managers)
  • Manufacturing and products (designers, manufacturers)
  • Water systems (water and wastewater treatment plant operators, civil engineers)
  • Transportation systems (operators, mechanics, transportation engineers)
  • Urban design and landscaping (landscapers, urban planners, landscape architects)
  • Agriculture and food production (farmers, food producers, food handlers, chefs, restaurant managers)
  • Waste management (waste system operators, recycling technicians)
  • Energy production, systems, and management (power plant operators and technicians, wind turbine installers and technicians, electrical engineers, solar panel installers, energy auditors)

Catalyzing pathways through partnerships and ideas: How might we catalyze a connection between trusted community-based organizations and the green jobs sector? How might we strengthen our city’s capacity for workforce development, equity, inclusion, and community action? How might we encourage more social venture capital and matching funds or partnerships to carry the work into maturity? To create pathways to green jobs, we need to match trusted community-based organizations that serve the population in focus to green jobs employers around specific ideas for pilots.

Where We’re Focusing

Economic inequities persist amongst racial groups in Austin. Therefore, the population we’re focusing on for equitable access to green jobs is defined by individual income levels and race so that we might help eradicate these disparities.

Economic inequities: With regard to income levels, we focus on people making up to 200% of the federal poverty level. This level tracks to several measures that indicate vulnerability of the working poor who might experience displacement in a city with high growth and rapid gentrification: the United Way’s measure of Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed (ALICE), which describes the “working poor;” and to the UT Uprooted Report on displacement which indicates that 80% of median family income ($75,000) creates a vulnerability to displacement:

The map below shows areas in Austin where 20% or more of the population makes 200% or less of the federal poverty level, and the areas in the top 50 in terms of number of residents making 200% or less of the federal poverty level.

Racial equity is the condition when race no longer predicts a person’s quality of life outcomes in our community. The City recognizes that race is the primary determinant of social equity, and therefore we begin the journey toward social equity with this definition. Populations in focus include:

  • Youth of color ages 16-24, from communities in geographic neighborhoods of Austin identified in the map.
  • Adults of color from communities who might want to transition from low-wage jobs into more skilled higher paying green jobs, living in the communities identified on the map.

Grant focus area zip codes Austin zip codes where 20% or more of the population makes 200% or less of the federal poverty level

Grant focus area zip codes and census tracts Number of people in each census tract in the grant focus area that make 200% or less of the federal poverty level