Lara SkinnerExecutive Director, Climate Jobs Institute
Skinner is the Executive Director of the Climate Jobs Institute at Cornell University’s ILR School.
Skinner is a nationally recognized expert in the labor and employment impacts of climate change, clean energy policy, and the transition to a low-carbon economy. Under Lara’s direction, Cornell has designed jobs-led climate programs for 8 U.S. states and helped form coalitions composed of labor unions, elected leaders, environmental organizations, and industry experts in states like Texas, Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island.
Skinner and Dr. Mijin Cha authored the 2017 report “Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State.” Skinner convened NY unions after Hurricane Sandy to develop a union and equity-centered climate agenda. The three-year research, education, and policy process started in 2013 and helped spark the formation of the country's first union-led climate jobs organization with significant building trades and energy union – Climate Jobs NY.
The Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, now the Climate Jobs Institute, is the academic and educational partner of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. Skinner is a founding and current board of directors member for the Climate Jobs National Resource Center.
In the last ten years, Lara has written numerous book chapters, reports, and articles about how to build a strong, equitable clean energy economy. Lara has served as an advisor to unions, environmental organizations, legislators, and industry groups on labor and climate issues. She’s also done hundreds of presentations on this topic at the request of labor unions, elected leaders, the environmental movement, and in academic settings. Lara has advised and engaged over a hundred students in her research projects over the past ten years and has taught a class - Work, Labor, and the Climate Crisis – since 2012.
Lara has been featured in New York’s Labor Power 100 List for the last three years. Lara serves on the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Just Transition Working Group, New York State’s Offshore Wind Technical Group, and the Workforce Advisory Council for the Department of Energy’s Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act.
Dr. Skinner convenes the Climate Jobs 2050 Committee with Mike Fishman, President of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, a group funded by Breakthrough Energy, to examine the jobs and economic potential of clean energy technologies like offshore wind energy, sustainable aviation fuel, long duration storage, green hydrogen, and direct air capture.
Skinner began her career in labor working with Oregon’s Farmworkers Union (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, and as an active member of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, Local 3544. Skinner has worked for unions doing campaign research and policy development since 1999.
Skinner began working at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR School) in 2010 and started the Labor Leading on Climate Initiative in 2012. Skinner served as the Co-Director and Executive Director of the Worker Institute for five years. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
The Climate Jobs Institute (CJI) at Cornell University’s ILR School is guiding the nation’s transition to a strong, equitable, and resilient clean energy economy by pursuing three aims: to tackle the climate crisis; to create high-quality jobs; and to build a diverse, inclusive workforce.
Through cutting-edge policy studies, deep relationships with on-the-ground partners, and innovative training and education programs, the CJI provides information that policymakers, the labor and environmental movements, industry leaders, and others need to navigate this historic transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Core Activities and Objectives
The CJI delivers high-quality research, innovative policy solutions, and top-notch educational programming that connects key stakeholders to design and implement New York State’s climate plans.
The CJI’s main areas of work include:
- Applied Research and Policy Development for Legislators and Labor, Environmental, and Industry Leaders. The CJI crafts equity- and worker-oriented climate policies and analyses indicating how states can address climate change while maximizing high-quality job creation and economic development. The Institute’s research and policy efforts result in reports, case studies, policy briefs, and visual tools and maps to guide the nation’s transition to a clean, equitable economy.
- Technical Assistance. The CJI provides rapid response data and policy analysis on the labor, employment, and economic impacts of climate and clean energy issues. The Institute’s technical assistance work offers legislators, policymakers, and others real-time support. This work also generates legislative briefings, policy briefs, blog posts, op-eds, and other written materials targeting legislators, local government officials, and leaders in labor, environmental movements, and industry.
- Training and Education. The CJI organizes a variety of educational convenings that strengthen stakeholders’ knowledge, confidence, and motivation to tackle climate change and to build a large, equitable clean energy economy with high-quality jobs. Programs include the Institute’s annual Climate Jobs Summit; the design and delivery of member trainings; legislative briefings; educational delegations for legislators, labor leaders, and others; and an online Climate Jobs certificate.
- Workforce Development. The CJI provides a critical link between the future clean energy workforce we need and workforce development programs that meet these needs. The Institute also provides a pipeline from frontline Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities to paid on-the-job training programs and high-quality careers.
- Student Engagement. The CJI enriches the ILR and Cornell student experience by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in important aspects of the CJI’s core work through fellowships, research assistantships, hands-on clinical experiences, internships, labor-climate undergraduate and graduate courses, and more.
- Lara Skinner, J. Mijin Cha. 2022. Low-Carbon, High-Speed: How a Green New Deal Can Transform the Transportation Sector. in The Green New Deal and the Future of Work. New York, NY, United States: Columbia University Press, 2022. Craig Calhoun and Benjamin Y. Fong. (384)
- Lara Skinner. 2020. Building a Pro-Worker, Pro-Union Climate Movement. in Labor in the Time of Trump. Ithaca, NY, United States: Cornell University ILR Press, 2020. Edited by Jasmine Kerrissey, Eve Weinbaum, Clare Hammonds, Tom Juravich and Dan Clawson. (270)
Honors and Awards
- The 2023 State Labor Power 100, City & State New York. 2023
- The 2022 New York State Labor Power 100, City & State New York. 2022
- 2021 Movement Builders Award, Alliance for a Greater New York. 2021
- The 2021 New York State Labor Power 100, City & State New York. 2021