Workforce & Professional Development
By 2030, promote productive employment for Hawai‘i’s workforce – professionals, volunteers, practitioners – that supports community, environment, and economic prosperity through institutional transformation and job creation.
Building Hawai‘i’s workforce pipeline is key to implementing the Aloha+ Challenge sustainability goals across clean energy, local food, natural resource management, solid waste, and smart sustainable communities. The term “green jobs” is used to broadly to describe the many types of work that contribute to Hawai‘i’s economy, communities, and sustainability goals, including professional work across sectors, entrepreneurship, non-traditional work, subsistence-based livelihoods and cultural practitioners, and volunteerism. Although current available data on green jobs includes energy, agricultural, and conservation sectors, all jobs and work across sectors have an important role is achieving Hawai‘i’s sustainable development goals across economic, socio-cultural, and environmental priorities.
Hawai‘i is committed to providing opportunities to local workers, and currently boasts a low unemployment rate of 2.0% statewide in December 2017 (DLIR, 2018).
Figure 2: The figure to the left compares the Total Wage & Salary of Jobs compared with the unemployment rate. The two are inversely related in that when one increases, the other decreases. Currently, the unemployment rate is low, indicating that more of the population is working and therefore drawing wages. This increases the total wage due to the dip in unemployment. (Data Source: DLIR and DBEDT, 2020)
Although the unemployment rate is relatively low, many workers in Hawai‘i do not earn sufficient salary to support themselves and families through only one job. The high number of workers holding multiple jobs contributes to the low unemployment rate (Aloha United Way ALICE Report, 2016). Below is the proportion of people in Hawai‘i from 2000-2018 that were working multiple jobs to sustain their households.
Figure 5: Workforce Distribution data for Hawai‘i in 2020 shows some of the primary job sectors include health care, hospitality, retail trade and business services, and state government (DBEDT, 2020)
Salary Information Hawaii
A large part of household sustainability is based on workers earning a decent wage to support their families. University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) features a beta site for Hawai’i residents to search job types and learn about the number of jobs in that field as well as the respective median salary. This tool can help guide decisions by workers and student to pursue job and careers that meet their needs.
The Aloha+ Green Workforce and Education goal aims to capture a snapshot of jobs and workforce in Hawai‘i jobs, professional development opportunities, and equitable access to livable wage, goods, and services. Within this context, green jobs are defined as: jobs or livelihoods that help protect and restore Hawai‘i's natural and cultural resources; increase clean energy and local food production; reduce solid waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions; and build community resilience, equity, and well-being.
This builds on key reports from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) “Green Jobs Baseline Report, 2010” ; Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation (HMLF) and University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) “Foundations for Green Economy Reports, 2012 and 2016”; and The Hawai‘i Energy Policy Forum (HEPF) “Hawai‘i’s Clean Energy Jobs Report, 2015”. These reports are an effort to capture how Hawai‘i ’s workforce is moving toward a green economy. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) Green Jobs Baseline Report, 2010 defines “green jobs” as contributing to one or more of the five core areas as green: (1) Generate clean, renewable, sustainable energy; (2) Reduce pollution and waste; conserve natural resources; recycle (3) Energy efficiency (4) Educational, training and support of a green workforce (5) Natural, environmental-friendly production. Per this report, there were 2.4% Green Jobs in 2010. Currently, a subsequent report to collect further data to track progress is not expected. The Hawai‘i Energy Policy Forum (HEPF) “Hawai‘i’s Clean Energy Jobs Report, 2015” focused on jobs in the energy sector estimating a total of 4,900 clean energy and energy efficiency jobs across Hawai‘i in 2015. The Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation (HMLF) and University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) “Foundations for Green Economy Reports, 2012 and 2016” define green jobs in the energy, agricultural, and conservation sectors.
Table 1: Number of full-time employee (FTE) green jobs in Hawai‘i per defined sectors of energy (sub-sector of renewable energy), agriculture, and natural resource management (NRM) in 2012 (Data Source: Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation (HMLF) and University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) Foundations for Green Economy Reports, 2012)
The subsequent report by Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation (HMLF) and University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) “Foundations for Green Economy Report” in 2016 yielded an 8% increase of full-time employee (FTE) jobs since the 2012. The growth rate for Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Agriculture jobs was not able to be verified due to the low response rate to the survey and rapidly changing renewable sub-sector of energy.
Green Workforce and Organizational
Hawai‘i can transform the current workforce through the integration of green skills, practices, and a commitment to environmental, economic, and social priorities, building resilience and supporting sustainability outcomes. This “green infusion” is reflected in organizational operations and workforce practices, as well employee trainings and professional development.
There are an increasing number of opportunities for businesses to adopt “green” practices and institutionalize sustainability into business culture. Some examples of these actions may include integrating sustainable ethos into organizational missions, policies, and human resource programs to reflect a commitment to institutionalizing sustainability practices. In addition, organizations can apply for various certifications and programs, such as the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and Green Business Certification Inc. There are record efforts and successes with the international Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social wellbeing or "corporate citizenship." Locally, businesses can register with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DLIR) Green Business Directory to feature adopted sustainability practices, and apply for the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism’s (DBEDT) Green Business Program to integrate more sustainable practices.
To ensure implementation, many businesses and organizations are developing a position for a sustainability-focused professional to coordinate across departments, offices, and operations to leverage resources, close gaps, ensure accountability, and share lessons learned. Many of these actions have taken hold nationally – notably, in a recent Forbes poll, 36% of Fortune 500 companies cited sustainability as a top five priority (Forbes, 2017) and many have a Chief Sustainability Offer, a dedicated point-person to oversee the implementation of related organizational policies, commitments, and initiatives.
Hawai‘i Graduates in the Workforce
The term “brain drain” in Hawai‘i commonly refers to high school and college graduates born and raised in Hawai‘i migrating to the continental U.S. in pursuit of more prosperous opportunities. Many students and graduates are in search of lower cost of living, higher salaries, more access to advanced technologies, and more job opportunities.
Kenneth Francis Kamu’ookalani Brown, a significant figure in the political, business, and cultural life of the Hawaiian Islands in the decades spanning the 1960s through the 1990s noted in his 1973 speech to the State Legislature:
“The export or drain of human talent should be firmly discouraged. If we start to lose our productive people, we start to lose a resource which is very valuable... It is proper to export skills which we have developed, but it is wasteful to export the minds which have developed those skills.”-Kenneth Brown, 1973
Supporting and retaining the talent of Hawai‘i’s keiki within the state is important, and efforts are being made to build workforce opportunities in a number of professions to help provide diverse and meaningful livelihoods for Hawai‘i graduates. The figure below illustrates the proportion of University of Hawai‘i students that graduated in 2010 with varying levels of degrees who are working in Hawai‘i.
University of Hawai‘i graduates found in Hawai‘i's workforce
Figure 6: The graph illustrates the proportion of University of Hawai‘i students that graduated in 2012 with varying levels of degrees who are working in Hawai‘i. Source: Hawai‘i Data Exchange Partnership)
and Equitable Access in the Workforce
Hawai‘i has a unique cross-section of cultures and is known for its rich diversity. It is imperative that diverse groups – gender, ethnicity, culture, and other areas – are well-represented across sectors and have equitable access to quality education, decent work, and services in Hawai‘i. Tracking progress on equitable access can help illustrate opportunities, fiscal access, and representation of diversity throughout education and the workforce with a view to achieve Hawai‘i’s 2030 sustainability goals.
Figure 8 illustrates the total businesses owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in 2012, and their respective proportion of firms within the ethnic group. (Data Source: United States Census Bureau)
Figure 9 shows the total number of firms in Hawai‘i’s industries and highlights and number of Native Hawaiian businesses comparatively which accounts for 12.5%.
(Source: DBEDT, 2012)
Nationally, there were 54,749 Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander-owned businesses across the country in 2012, up 45.3 percent from 37,687 in 2007. This rate of increase topped all race groups (except those that marked “other”) and far exceeds the rate for all U.S. firms (2.0 percent). Native Hawaiians accounted for 25,774, or 47.1 percent of the race group’s firms and $4.5 billion in receipts, or 55.6 percent. (U.S. Census)
There continues to be a gender gap in the workforce. A June 2017 report shows older women in Hawai‘i are 57 percent more likely than their male counterparts to live in poverty (Institute for Women’s Policy Research). Many of the economic challenges that older women experience stem from inequities that women face earlier in life, including a persistent wage gap. This wage gap may be attributed to a number of factors, such as traditional male and female roles. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women spend more time doing unpaid work than men. In the U.S., women do an average of 242 minutes of unpaid work compared with 148 minutes for men. Time spent performing unpaid work may take time away from career advancement or other pursuits. The data below is for the United States as a whole and does not have state-specific data.
Figure 10 displays the amount of unpaid work women perform compared to men in the U.S., in particular, household activities. Note: Disaggregated data for Hawai‘i is not available. (Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics and Market Watch, 2017)
Figure 11: Proportion of women in managerial positions compared to men. (Source: 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates by the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program for 2017, with a margin of error of ±1.5.)
Figure 12: Number of firms in Hawaiʻi owned by women versus the number of firms owned by men (Source: US Census Bureau).
Figure 13: This figure shows income disparity between men and women workers by income bracket (Data Source: DBEDT)
Note: The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) defines economic self‐sufficiency as the amount of money that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs without government and/or other subsidies. This is also consistent with Family Self Sufficiency Study (FESS) methodology, which assumes that adults are working full‐time (40‐hour a week), at one or more jobs.
Figure 14: This graph shows the percentage of households (HH) receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Hawai’i in 2013. (Data Source: Hawai’i Department of Human Services)
Professional development and training are key aspects of integrating sustainability into organizations across Hawai‘i; this includes formal trainings, professional development opportunities, as well as formal and informal peer-to-peer learning networks.
There are an increasing number of trainings for educators in professional development, particularly in the field of sustainability and place-based learning, to equip formal and informal educators with skills and materials to prepare students for the workforce.
Additionally, there are many professional development opportunities, such as training courses and certifications, to build knowledge and skills among Hawai‘i’s workforce to foster sustainable practices. As individuals pursue opportunities for professional development, employers can invest in their employees by offering support for training to help their professionals continue to build skills, knowledge, and professional connections. For example, facilities managers who participates in the Building Operator Certification course hosted by Hawai’i Energy and University of Hawai’i Maui College, benefit both the individual and employer.
There are a growing number of professional development opportunities in Hawai‘i, such as training courses and apprenticeships, that build knowledge and skills among Hawai‘i ’s workforce to foster sustainable practices. There is no central database to collect the participation and impact of these professional development opportunities. Learn more about the courses, events, and benefits of these trainings in the “Learn More and Make A Difference” section below.
The scale of Hawaii’s sustainability challenges require a new way of engaging diverse groups to develop collaborative cross-cutting solutions. Professional network help individuals learn from collective experiences, leverage resources, share ideas and best practices. Some examples of professional network-based organizations include: Hawai’i Green Growth, Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA), Hawai’i Conservation Alliance, Promise to Pae’āina (P2P) o Hawai’i, Alu Like, Hawai’i Energy Policy Forum (HEPF), Hawai’i Energy’s Clean Energy Ally (CEA) Program, Watershed Partnerships, Sustainable Agriculture Groups, and organizations that host networking events such as Chamber of Commerce, Green Drinks, Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE), and many others.
Learn More and Make A Difference
What You Can Do
Certify your business
- Find Job Training Programs through Department of Labor and Industrial Relation’s (DLIR) Career Kōkua.
- Participate in Green Certifications and Programs:
- United States Green Building Council (USGBC) exists to create an environmentally and socially responsible, health and prosperous quality of life in Hawai’i by transforming the building environment in the way that it is planned, designed, constructed, and operated.
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings, and is recognized globally as a symbol of sustainability achievement
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) Green Business Directory and Hawai‘i Green Jobs portal
- University of Hawai'i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) Hawai'i job explorer looks at potential job occupations by median salary
- Record efforts and successes with the international Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social wellbeing or "corporate citizenship"
- Register businesses in Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DLIR) Green Employers Directory if the business has adopted sustainability practices
- Enroll in Building Operator Certification (BOC), the leading training certification program for engineers and maintenance personnel and graduates are able to make their building more comfortable, efficient and environmentally friendly based on skillsets mastered in BOC’s classes. BOC courses are offered through University of Hawai‘i Maui College (UHMC) and University of Hawai‘i Outreach College (UHMOC)
- Navigate your career pathway using Hawai‘i IndustrySectors Portal developed by University of Hawai‘i Community College – a tool for students and job-seeking professionals to navigate their career pathway. This platform shows education and training requirements as well as demand for jobs and careers.
- Hawai‘i Department of Education Professional Development (PDE3) Courses for Educators.
- Hawai‘i Science Teachers Association (HSTA) strives to create quality education through educator-centric opportunities for professional growth and lifelong learning
- Ka Hei Program – offers professional development sessions for teachers; engage students in renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits in schools through hands-on learning opportunities
- Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) honors the community’s environmental and cultural values, seeks to transform education, prepares the workforce, and builds community dialogue and consensus about the future
- Island Energy Inquiry engages students in rigorous explorations of real energy issues on Hawaiian Islands
- Women In Technology (WIT) STEMWorks recognizes the power of women in the workforce, and encourages them to reach their full potential in order to keep Hawai’i in pace with the changing technological landscape
- Hawai‘i Energy empowers island families and businesses to make smarter energy choices to reduce energy consumption, save money, and pursue a 100% clean energy future
- K-12 Educator Training and Development Workshops provide K-12 teachers the opportunity to learn about energy and energy efficiency in a fun and exciting way.
- Technical Training: Hawai’i Energy works with business and energy professional across industries to advance energy conservation and efficiency in Hawai’i
- Clean Energy Ally Program is a network of energy efficient sectors providing products and services to residential and business electric ratepayer of Hawai’i, Honolulu, and Maui counties
- Participate in the University of Hawai‘i Annual Sustainability Summit for Higher Education , an annual event empowering higher education in Hawaii to lead the sustainability transformation of our communities across Hawai’i’s 10-campus System
- Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) annual teacher development events
- Schools of the Future started in 2008 exploring the ramifications of the changing global economy on the education practices in Hawai’i’s schools. Thus, they passed an 5-year building initiative designed to transform learning environments and teaching strategies of independent schools to prepare students for citizenship and work in the 21st century.
- Global Issues Network (GIN) empowers young people to collaborate locally, regionally, and globally to create Project-based sustainable solutions for global issues.
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) hosts opportunities for students and professionals with workforce training and experience.
- Career Kōkua is an online tool and resource for career exploration process by accessing related information to help point people in the right direction
- Funding support for professional development - Hawai‘i Workforce Development Division (WDD) Employment & Training Fund (ETF) Program
- The Volunteer Internship Program (VIP) is a voluntary program that allows jobseekers, especially those receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, to gain workforce training through an unpaid internship with interested employers. Upon successful completion of training, interns receive a certificate of job skills acquired and consideration for employment. VIP is limited to 16-32 hours per week for a period of 4-8 weeks. For FY 2015-16, 138 individuals were placed in internships.
- Apprenticeship Program – Apprenticeship is long-term job training lasting from one to five years. Private industry assumes the cost through full time on-the-job training combined with classroom/shop instruction. This method of training has resulted in a constant flow of highly skilled workers for Hawai‘i’s industries. During FY 2015-16, there were over 7,000 active apprentices and 436 completed the program. There were 46 registered apprenticeship programs both in the construction and non-construction trades, which included a new Information Technology Apprenticeship Program.
- Carpentry and Drywall Apprenticeship Programs require 8,000 hours of training to become certified Journeyman in the field of Carpentry and Drywall. Workers are supported by Hawai‘i Regional Council of Carpenters financially and through advocacy for fair and decent wages and benefits. The majority of signatory contractors are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and therefore members have the benefit of exposure to best practices under the LEED program by their employer. The union apprenticeship program also offers Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) Best Practices in Health Care Construction course to train on how to work in a sterile environment such as a hospital by teaching members how to contain pathogens, control airflow, protect patients, and work without disrupting adjacent operations.
- High Tech Development Corporation (HTDC) 80x80 Initiative: Capturing state efforts to provide 80,000 green technology jobs with salaries $80,000 or more by 2030
- Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) Job Training Services Through the WIOA, WDD was a service provider for the Counties’ Adult and Dislocated Worker population on Hawai‘i, Maui, and Kauai. Low-income adults and former workers who were laid off or terminated and unlikely to return to their previous occupations were targeted for services.
- UH Maui College Ku'ina Program provides workforce services for Youth supported by The Office of Economic Development works with the State DLIR Workforce Development Division (WDD): https://www.mauicounty.gov/1769/Workforce-Investment-Act-WIA
- State Department of Human Resource Development (DHRD) provides timely and responsive leadership, resources, and services to fully support the State in the recruitment, management and retention of a high-performing workforce. Visit for general awareness and to learn more about Civil Service Job Opportunities, Promotional Job Opps, Non-Civil Service Job Opps, and Job opp with other state depts.
- East-West Center (EWC), University of Hawai‘i promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the U.S., Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue
- Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) empowers women and takes collective action to tackle climate change, poverty, and food insecurity within enabling environments
- United National (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5: Gender Equality and 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world
- National Women’s Law Center tracks key state laws and policies that affect women and their families and analyze the status of women per state
- American Progress – gender-based advocacy and measurement that develops new policy ideas, challenges media to cover real issues, and shapes the national debate