The Future of Green Jobs: As Goes California, Goes The Nation
It seems like we never stop hearing the phrase. The environmental movement is largely billed as a successful way to create jobs and save the planet at the same time. However, since this sustainability shift is relatively new, the number or quality of green jobs created has been ambiguous. This leaves many wondering if the promise of green jobs is just a bunch of wind turbine generated hot air.
Rest assured it is not.
On March 17, 2011, The Donald Vial Center Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy released the California Workforce, Education, and Training Needs Assessment for Energy Efficiency, Distributed Generation and Demand Response. The California Public Utility Commission endorsed the report, as did Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Martin Morgentstern, and Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland). The Report details the progress California has made in meeting their ambitious energy efficiency goals and how this led to the creation of a green jobs workforce.
Creating 200,000 Jobs: By 2020, energy efficiency policies will result in about $11.2 billion of public and private investment, resulting in 211,000 jobs. These jobs are high-paid, skilled jobs, which resist outsourcing because of the local nature of the trade. It’s hard to outsource a concentrated solar farm supplying power to Southern California.
Mostly Builders and Architects: The Report also found that two-thirds of these jobs are in the traditional construction trades and one-sixth of these jobs are in the architecture and engineering trades. Only a tiny percentage is in newly created, specialized green jobs (like solar installation technicians, etc). This raises the question as to whether or not the green jobs created are really new and distinct jobs, or just redefinitions of existing jobs. Regardless, the increase in the necessity of obtaining continuing education and certification such as LEED is undeniable.
Need For Quality: The California Report noted that poorly installed energy efficiency equipment is undermining the achievement of energy efficiency goals. The Report continues that the low-wage market for skilled technicians is responsible. If these jobs earned a higher wage, more money would be invested in training and the quality of the installation would rise. As more and more organizations recognize the importance of environmental efficiency to their bottom line and public perception, the demand for such jobs will increase and thus, so will the associated wages.
Need For A Unified Certification System: According to the Report, California has over 1,000 training and education programs training in the key forecasted occupations, but the lack of widespread industry-recognized certifications lead to confusion and lack of coordination in the workforce development system.
How To Improve: In California, the Report recommends using their public and ratepayer investment program to incentivize higher wages for green jobs. By setting high quality and uniform certification programs, green jobs and their skilled technicians gain credibility. Furthermore, by enforcing and improving building codes, there is more of a need for green jobs. This in turn raises the wages.
The Report makes it obvious that the future of green jobs is here to stay and that obtaining certification relevant to your field is a must. Further, obtaining certification as a means to get ahead of the competition and start a new and lucrative career in green energy is useful for the thousands of unemployed and displaced workers in California and elsewhere.