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Green Jobs and Green Job Training Overview

Green jobs are the organic wave of the future as the US and the world re-engineers its energy and manufacturing methods to protect and restore our natural resources. And green training is at the heart of this career maker.

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By Carolyn Allen, Editor of Solutions for Green

Green jobs are cool...and hot!

President Obama has said that he hopes to create 5 million green jobs within ten years. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that re-engineering the fossil fuel economy into a "green economy" could account for as much as 10% of job growth over the next 30 years.

The LA Times has discovered that green jobs are news. And they find that the challenge is as complex and multi-faceted as we have found it to be in our research over the past five years.

Green jobs are expanding from the core of basic research into the applied services and products that consumers can buy.

And that broadens the kinds of green jobs being created.

Green jobs vary widely -- from autoworkers making and maintaining hybrid and alternative energy cars, to green building and remodeling services and consultants, home energy auditors, environmental studies teachers and authors, wind turbine engineers and maintenance crews, lawyers for biofuel, wind and solar companies and many more.

Soon we will face the reality that "every job can be a greener job," as I've been advocating.

Find Greener Jobs Locally, Where You Are!

Some green jobs will be new positions; but most green careers will be extensions and upgrades for traditional careers as companies and their clients focus on saving energy, cogeneration of energy, and reducing toxins in their operations and products.

Sometimes the best green job you can find grows organically out of taking the initiative to upgrade your knowledge and skills, and apply new green expertise to your current job or for your current (or past) employer. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" folk wisdom comes to mind!

Workers from traditional industries tweaking their skills is a very green solution because the worker carries forward their high levels of productivity skills, industry knowledge, and relationship -- which are all important parts of sustainable community building.

The focus of green jobs is conservation of natural resources, green materials and operations, sustainable communities and high-performance to reduce waste.

Experts point to California's leadership in creating green jobs. The growth rate of green jobs nationwide was 9.1% from 1998 to 2007, compared with a 3.7% increase for all jobs during the same period, according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Even with California's budget problems, the state-sponsored green job training programs continue, and companies are being encouraged and supported to create more green jobs, and upgrade the skills of current employees with green skills. (WIB, and ETPL, and EDD)

Local Green Job Creation

One of the key metrics of a "green job" is whether the job supports local communities with local jobs. And many green jobs do that. Local cogeneration of energy can't export installation and maintenance jobs. Manufacturing, maybe, but not the ongoing operations. That brings a steady job and steady revenue to the local community.

Focus: Green Energy Jobs and GHG Reduction

The change-over from fossil fuels to renewable energy -- solar, wind, geothermal and biomass -- will require a major shift in our largest engine of commerce: energy.

A UC Berkeley study concluded that "the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced and per dollar of investment, than the fossil fuel-based energy sector."

Local, distributed cogeneration of energy is like small farming vs. factory farms. Volume is spread out in a more sustainable, distributed network of sources and not concentrated like mono-culture farms. Diversity brings with it redundancy, and greater security, along with a higher cost per unit. And that higher cost per unit provides more jobs. And more national security. And a more sustainable system.

Traditional industries and labor organizations are getting into the green transition to a new way of doing business. Unions, including the United Steelworkers, support teaching green skills to preserve manufacturing and combat outsourcing. Building trade unions are actively developing job training programs for their members.

Green job training is spreading broadly into Transportation, Roofing, HVAC, and Carpentry, Landscaping... in addition to energy generation using wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

Billions of research and development dollars from clean-tech venture capitalists have poured into California -- $3.3 billion in 2008, more than double the amount in 2007, according to Palo Alto research group Next 10.

Pew Foundation found that in 2007, nearly 125,500 clean-energy workers in California were earning $21,000 to $111,000.

Even with the downturn, residents and companies are scrutinizing their energy bills to find the break-even point at which solar or small wind cogeneration will give them a reasonable ROI.

Since June, 2009 SolarCity in Foster City, CA, has hired 120 people, 41 of them in Southern California. An additional 180 green job hirings are expected in the next three months.

Economics are like the "rising tide that raises all boats" and the tough economy also affects all industries if customers can't get financing for green projects. Despite the potential of the green industry, the current economic conditions have saturated the job market with applicants wanting "any job"..and who are hoping that green jobs provide a better future.

Tom Savage at Bright Green Talent, a job-search firm in San Francisco helps clients find jobs in a "whole gradient of color between the greenest jobs and the non-green." Many "greener" job positions involve skills that can be transferred from other lines of work.

What's different are the metrics -- energy-savings sometimes trump installation ease or even initial costs (to some degree). Serious Materials, Sunnyvale, CA, makes energy-saving construction materials and has set a corporate goal of avoiding 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. They are using the economic plunge as an opportunity to expand their manufacturing capacity by purchasing a bankrupt manufacturer and rehiring the skilled window manufacturing workers. And greening them.

Green job seekers need to be imaginative. Where can green strategies be applied in innovative, cost effective ways?

  • How can energy be conserved?
  • How can transportation be reduced?
  • How can waste materials from another process be incorporated as recycled content?
  • How can jobs be created to bring jobs to a community that will also buy the output?
  • How can government efficiencies be increased at the same time jobs are created?
  • Where's the "beef"? As in, green efficiencies?

Green isn't the next get rich quick industry...although a number of people are trying to make it into a bubble. Green and sustainability are about de-leveraging and returning to realistic economics like a natural ecosystem ... a balance of input and output. Organic growth, not hyper-growth.

Former home builders and Internet executives spoiled by high profits can be flummoxed by the low-margin, volume-driven nature of the solar industry. Many green entrepreneurs have been struggling since the 60s or 70s to build a solid business model based on well-tested solutions. They continue the struggle even in these times because of the "make a difference" motives that drove them to innovate in the face of higher profit options in traditional and bubble sectors such as development, medicine, corporate agriculture and high tech.

There are some popular hot-spots in the green industry. Solar PV has been one of these hot spots, fertilized by generous rebates and tax incentives. REC Solar, a San Luis Obispo company, was started in 1997 with fewer than 10 people, and is constantly hiring salespeople and marketers and expanding its crew of more than 400 installers, Laviziano said. Despite a "mixed year" that has included layoffs at the company and a recession, REC has hired 40 employees this year.

Green Job Training and Certifications

Green science isn't always rocket-science. Core technologies can depend on sophisticated research at leading federal laboratories, but these green tech findings are deliberately simplified for distributed application -- and broad applications.

Around two-thirds of all energy-efficiency jobs in 2004 were considered middle-skill, or requiring less than a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, 13% of positions were high-skill and 21% were low-skill, according to a report last month from the Workforce Alliance.

Skilled worker training programs and specialist certifications are developing around the most popular and best-supported green job sectors such as solar PV, solar thermal and wind energy jobs.

Businesses, schools and nonprofits are in the process of developing job training courses, programs, internships and apprenticeship-based training programs.

You can learn more about green job training and certification programs at our websites: Green Job Wizard, and Solutions For Green Careers,.

  • One training organization is Boots on the Roof in Fremont, CA.

  • The nonprofit Solar Energy International has a seven-acre campus in Colorado, online courses and worldwide workshops on sustainable building and transportation, hydro and wind turbine maintenance and more.

  • The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s PowerPathway program offer similar sessions.

  • CleanEdison has educated thousands of workers in green building practices, including the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standard and energy auditing.

  • Community colleges also are feeding the boom.
California Community Colleges are developing a distributed approach to educating the green tech and green jobs workforce, with each campus specializing in the relevant green tech jobs available in their local regions.

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa is developing a solar installation certification program, with one course already filled to capacity.

Water purification and chemical technology are among the certificate and degree programs at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

There are also opportunities for for-profit schools to develop specialized green and "greener" job training. Anaheim University's Kisho Kurokawa Green Institute offers several graduate-level certificates and degrees, many of them online.

Federal grant money for green jobs training

In summer 2009, the US Labor Department released guidelines for distributing $500 million in grants to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy employment. For more information on funding, job seekers should call a One-Stop or WorkSource career center.

You can also learn more about these federal green job funding grants at our websites: Green Job Wizard, Solutions For Green Careers, and Solutions for Training.

Green for All, a nonprofit group dedicated to creating a clean energy economy suggests "caution" in choosing a program because some recent entrants to the training business might not have an experienced faculty and not all jobs require a major investment. Many jobs can be achieved with courses specific to the job or company being approached, and can be taken at minimal cost.

Certification programs also help document course or skill achievements, but certification programs need to be conducted by reputable organizations such as trade associations, colleges or public organizations. See Green Job Wizard for a comprehensive directory of certification programs, including green job training and certification programs.

Emerging Green Energy Fields: Algae, Advanced Transportation and Green Healthcare

OriginOil Inc. is a Los Angeles company with only 10 full-time employees, most of them scientists with doctorates, and they expect to have only 30 at their peak. This is an example of the "small business" focus of much of the green industry. Highly educated research firms can leverage their efforts globally and through licensing deals with larger laboratories and corporations. These are the future high tech jobs.

Wanted: Technical Skills!

But most green jobs will be in the middle and lower skill levels: sales engineers, technicians, installers and operators. These jobs are crying out for skilled, productive workers with some technical and scientific knowledge. Math and science are needed to measure, evaluate, and optimize sophisticated equipment and systems.

Employers consistently rate technical knowledge/skills and communication skills as the two most needed, and least often found job skills. Especially in the green jobs field.

Successful applicants will develop their knowledge and their interest by reading about clean tech, renewable energy or the general green marketplace on online forums such as our editorial website with more than 3,000 articles about green business, green technologies and sustainable communities.

Informational sessions at green tech and trade association conventions are helpful, as well.

"People who have done their research always impress me," is heard frequently in the green career field. Companies are looking for people with real concern for their communities, their families, and who have taken the initiative to educate themselves about the key metrics and methods of green, sustainable strategies.

Bringing a network of contacts with you isn't a bad thing, either!

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| green jobs | green job training | green tech jobs |


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