An election year means a never-ending barrage of candidate rhetoric; the race to 2008 is proving to be no different. From all points of broadcast, print and digital media, we’re overwhelmed with the latest candidate promises on topics including health care, national security and the economy.
But this year, we’re hearing a lot of stumping on the campaign trail about a new issue: green-collar jobs, or jobs created by a shift to a more energy-conscious, energy-efficient society.
The major presidential candidates are all talking about the green-collar movement and pledging the creation millions of new jobs, job training for current and future workers, and the identification of green industries of the future.
Republican Sen. John McCain – "We have the opportunity to apply America’s technological supremacy to capture the export markets for advanced energy technologies, reaping the capital investment and good jobs it will provide."
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama – "We’ve also got to do more to create the green jobs that are jobs of the future. My energy plan will put $150 billion over 10 years into establishing a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades."
This stronger focus on energy diversity and efficiency means more jobs: opportunities in sustainable energy sources like wind and solar, ethanol production, green building, hazardous waste removal, recycling and consumer goods; jobs in research and development, construction, manufacturing, technology, operations and sales.
Perhaps one of the greatest strides in this movement is the Green Jobs Act, part of the 2007 energy bill, which Congress passed and President Bush signed in late 2007.
"This innovative proposal — green-jobs — will make $125 million a year available across the country to begin training workers for jobs in the clean energy sector," remarked Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., who co-wrote the Green Jobs Act. "Thirty-five thousand people per year can benefit from vocational education that will provide for them secure employment in this country."
The availability of green-collar jobs will cross boards of workers at all skill levels, says Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance, which promotes clean energy and energy efficiency policies and initiatives. "Whether your field is technical, you’re a skilled or unskilled worker, you were laid off… the economic benefits from green jobs spread from the highly educated to the noneducated."
The act also provides funding for green-collar training particularly targeted to individuals in need of updated skills; military veterans; unemployed individuals; individuals seeking employment pathways out of poverty; and formerly incarcerated, nonviolent offenders.
According to the act, energy efficiency and renewable energy industries covered under the term green collar" include:
- energy efficiency assessment industry serving the residential, commercial or industrial sectors; and
- manufacturers that produce sustainable products using environmentally sustainable processes and materials.
"New technologies require new skills," said Rachel Gragg, federal policy director for The Workforce Alliance. "Adopting clean energy practices is critical to our nation’s well-being, but these efforts won’t succeed if we don’t invest in the people who will actually do this work. We need people to install millions of solar panels, build and maintain alternative energy plants, make buildings more energy efficient, and maintain and repair hybrid vehicles."
Here are just some of the green areas employers will be hiring for in the coming years:
- Food production using organic and/or sustainably grown agricultural products
- Furniture making from environmentally certified and recycled wood
- Manufacturing of green products (like wind turbine blades and solar panels)
- Reuse and production of products made from recycled, nontoxic materials
- Retrofitting to increase water efficiency and conservation
- Whole home performance (i.e: heating, ventilating and air conditioning; attic insulation; weatherization; etc.)
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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