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Chicago's green job landscape brimming with opportunity, uncertainty

"Chicago's green job landscape brimming with opportunity, uncertainty(By Jacob Bressler via Medill Reports Chicago)Karen Kalmek has a green job.As the founder of Green Home Chicago, a year-and-a-half old green interior
design company, Kalmek, a native South African, manages the business side
of the operation at its vibrant showroom in the West Loop.With its faux living room and kitchen setups and recyclable décor, the
showroom exemplifies modern, sustainable flavor."My mission is social entrepreneurship and creating jobs," she said.With the unemployment rate in Illinois hitting 9.4 percent in April, the
need for new types of jobs becomes increasingly apparent. The federal
government and lawmakers at the state and city levels have emphasized the
creation of green jobs, or employment opportunities combining the benefits
of environmental sustainability and a livable salary.Several factors could influence future green job opportunities in Chicago –
including the city's climate action plan, consumer demand for green goods
and services, and specific job training programs. An emphasis is being
placed on creating opportunities for those most in need of permanent
employment, despite some skepticism about the possible success of those
plans."We're trying to build the capacity so that there can be a lot of green
jobs in the Chicagoland area," said Paige Finnegan, director of the
Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative and director of sustainable
development for the Local Economic and Employment Development Council.The green collar jobs initiative is a private operation working to develop
Chicago's green-collar work force – positions that would ideally be filled
by the city's low-income and at-risk populations. Finnegan said the job
types being focused on include home weatherization laborers, energy
auditors, alternative energy installation, and opportunities at stores or
companies that manufacture or sell eco-friendly products.The initiative's mission is being aided by the city and state, as climate
plans and energy emissions regulations aim to set new environmental
standards and create employment opportunities in the process.The Chicago Climate Action Plan, released by the city in September 2008,
outlines five different strategies for environmental regulation in areas
such as reducing energy usage in buildings, installing alternative energy
systems, and using alternative modes of transportation. As an added
benefit, the plan touts the possibility of developing thousands of new
green-collar jobs in the future.Broad, ambitious projects outline the plan's documentation -- including a
goal of retrofitting 400,000 homes by 2020. Retrofitting refers to the
process of making buildings more energy-efficient by installing new
lighting, replacing old windows, and taking advantage of other methods for
reducing the overall carbon footprint.As more homes get retrofitted, positions would be created in areas of
energy auditing, construction and post-auditing.According to Karen Hobbs, first deputy commissioner for Chicago's
Department of Environment, the city acted carefully to create the plan with
job creation in mind."We wanted to be very systematic about our approach to green job
development to make sure that we fully captured the opportunity out there,"
Hobbs said.Therefore, the city hired researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago
to determine the amount of jobs that would be created if the climate action
plan achieves its goals. The study, released earlier this year, estimates
that between 3,500 and 5,000 new jobs would hit the marketplace if the city
reaches its energy-efficiency goals for buildings."What some of the city's climate actions plan is likely to do is it will
create green jobs," said Klaus Weber, assistant professor in management and
organization at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
"Some of those will be converting other jobs into greener jobs."The city faces th"