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Is the creation of five million new ???green collar' jobs realistic?

WHERE WILL OBAMA FIND FIVE MILLION 'GREEN COLLAR' WORKERS?The average victim of the economic crisis will find it difficult to train

up for a job in renewable energyPresident Obama’s plan to turn around the

US economy includes $150bn of investment in green energy over the next 10

years, driving America towards energy independence whilst creating five

million ‘green collar’ jobs.Nobody can question the need for the new US president to take action to

resurrect the US economy or the need for the US to take a prominent role in

the battle against climate change. However, creating five million renewable

energy jobs for Americans will be more than challenging. The availability

of economic capital to simulate growth is not all that’s needed -

availability of human capital could be the real limiting factor.When Obama talked about “green collar” jobs in recent times in relation to

his New Energy for America Plan he referred more specifically to jobs

within the renewable energy sector and its supply chain.The renewable energy sector is already booming. While many other industries

are making redundancies, recruiters in the renewable energy markets are

being kept very busy. Today there is a growing skills shortage within the

renewable energy sector globally. Many employers are still battling with a

bottleneck that threatens the growth of their businesses and that of the

whole sector. Offshore wind and project development are good examples of

where demand for expertise currently considerably outstrips supply.The industry is still in its relative infancy so unlike many other

industries there are comparatively few professionals with more than a few

years’ experience.The majority of jobs within the alternative energy industry are also highly

technical and based on engineering or scientific disciplines - skills which

are currently in short supply.Certainly, all growing companies need accountants, lawyers and human

resources professionals but these are essentially ‘back office’ jobs and

for every back office job there are five times as many ‘front office’ jobs:

the engineers and technicians that are planning and building wind farms or

designing, manufacturing and installing solar panels for example.There will be jobs that can be carried out by low or semi skilled workers

but these will be in the minority.The creation of several million highly technical jobs may be little

consolation to the hairdresser, shop manager or average person in the

street who may have recently lost their job through redundancy.Engineers need better pay and more kudosIn 2005, Duke University released a set of figures (based on graduates of a

4 year engineering degree) which concluded that 70,000 US engineering

students were graduating each year compared to 351,537 annual engineering

graduates in China. That's five times the US total.This is not just an American problem, as highlighted in the OECD policy

paper “Evolution of Student Interest in Science and Technology Studies”

published in 2006: in the past 15 years there has been a decrease in the

relative number of graduating engineers in Europe.The problem is even more acute in the UK than in the EU as a whole. The

number of engineering graduates, currently around 22,000 per annum, has

steadily fallen over the last ten years, despite a rising trend in the

number of students at university. Engineers used to make up 11% of the

annual total of graduates in 1998. By 2007, the figure had dropped to 7%.The western world is currently not producing enough engineers and those who

do graduate with technical degree have many career options to choose from

including working in the telecommunications, nanotechnology, computing and

automotive industry.It is widely accepted that in many countries such as the UK there is a

distinct lack of qualified teachers across all of the science, engineering,

technology and math (STEM) subjects, and at all levels. This needs to be

addressed urgently, but we