Is the promise of green jobs – jobs that will be created in a more energy-conscious, energy-efficient society dead? The recent defeat of the Climate legislation seems to indicate that this is the case.
What are green jobs?
The jury is still out on this. However, the 2007 Green Jobs Act is a good place to start. In my humble opinion, green jobs are the STEM jobs of the future in these areas:
- Renewable energy production, storage and delivery
- People working to reduce our reliance on fossil feedstock and environmental pollution through manufacturing of devices and products all sectors of our economy (e.g., Automotive, Aerospace, Construction, Security, Bio/Nano/Information Technology, Transportation, Health Care, Hospitality, Retail, etc).
- People who develop local, state, regional, national and international strategies, plans and policies to reduce our reliance of fossil feedstock and environmental pollution in all sectors of our economy.
Each area has two main types of green jobs for all citizens – professional/technical services and manufacturing. In order to grow a healthy green economy, we need to consider ways to foster the creation and growth of jobs in both green professional/technical services as well as a green manufacturing in all areas of STEM.
Why are green jobs necessary?
We compete with the rest of the world for international standing in markets, products, skilled professionals, manufacturing sites and ideas for future technological advancements. We are also faced with increasingly complex resource and environmental challenges. As we look to the next 10 to 50 years, natural resources of every kind will reach their limits as human populations explode. These trends mandate a paradigm shift in how we use our natural resources, science and technology to improve our quality of life.
Where do we start?
We are already having difficulty channeling all segments of our population in STEM jobs. Only 5 % of the U.S. workforce is employed in STEM [Source: U. S. Department of Labor Report, April 2007]. Our record for preparing the next generation of STEM professionals is also troubling at best. About 50 % of students who complete high school in the U.S. go to community colleges for a variety of reasons ranging from the high cost of attending a 4-year college/university, family constraints or poor scores on standardized tests. According a 2008 Workforce Alliance Report on the State of the Workforce, an estimated 70 % of students who find their way into Community Colleges are require remedial math and nearly as many require remedial reading, prior to taking any degree courses. Only a small percentage of students in community colleges students earn associate degrees for entry level positions in STEM. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 45 % of America’s good jobs (mostly in STEM areas) in the next few years will require a certificate or Associate’s Degree earned at technical or community college. Another concern is that most of our college graduates do not have the right skill set for the high paying STEM jobs in the global marketplace. This means that the 2.5 million STEM projected job openings due to growth and net replacement in 2004 – 2014 will be filled by talent found elsewhere [Source: Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2007]. Filling these STEM jobs is already pushing more companies overseas. Frankly, if we are going to grow a future STEM workforce (or should I say “green jobs”) we need to start paying more attention on improving K-12 education by taking the current efforts for Common Education Standards more seriously. Only then can we realize the bipartisan vision for green jobs mandated by the 2007 Green Jobs Act and by our President:
“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.” – Green Jobs Act 2007
“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.” – President Barrack Obama, 2008
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