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Making the Green Jobs Initiative Work

Making the Green Jobs Initiative WorkManufacturers should align their business strategies with state/federal

investments, and train workers in the latest energy skills.By Carl E. Van Horn, Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers via

IndustryWeek.comA central feature of President Obama's economic stimulus plan is the

creation of energy efficient and environmentally friendly "green jobs." The

law will boost energy cost savings and long term job growth through

significant spending on Energy Efficiency (EE) and Renewable Energy (RE)

development. Key appropriations include $5 billion for weatherization

projects, $4 billion to retrofit public housing, $2.5 billion for energy

efficiency research and $500 million for green job training.The challenge for U.S. policy makers is to sort through all the confusion

about "green jobs" and make investments that really pay off for the

economy. Researchers at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at

Rutgers University believe a top priority should be to identify the

specific green job skills and occupations most likely to offer Americans

meaningful, well-paying work.One thing is clear: the vast majority of green jobs will require completely

new skills. Rather, millions of workers in manufacturing, construction, and

facilities management will need to add a layer of "green" skills

requirements to their traditional education and training. Green job skills

will cut across many industry sectors, and affect workers at all levels --

from clerks and truck drivers to engineers and scientists.In the short run -- the next five years or so -- the greatest job growth

will be in jobs which contribute to reducing energy consumption. While most

media attention has focused on Renewable Energy sources such as solar

power, wind and bio-fuels, there are far more opportunities for work

involving Energy Efficiency and conservation.In 2007, for example, an estimated 3.8 million Americans were employed in

Energy Efficiency jobs compared to only 218,000 engaged in Renewable Energy

jobs installing solar panels, constructing wind farms and the like.The stimulus package programs that weatherize homes and buildings will

boost EE related employment by creating several hundred thousand jobs.

Residential work will employ laborers, carpenters, electricians, and others

with advanced training. The commercial and industrial retrofit projects

will also involve engineers and architects. State-level regulations and tax

incentives will further stimulate demand for energy efficiency projects and

workers to carry them out.U.S. manufacturers stand to benefit from growth in both the Renewable

Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors. Energy efficient retrofits of their

older facilities will reduce operating costs. They can also take advantage

of state and federal incentives to add RE/EE equipment to their current

product lines.Manufacturers should align their business strategies with state/federal

investments, and train (or retrain) workers in the latest energy skills.

These employers should form partnerships with local community colleges and

Workforce Investment Boards to ensure a steady supply of workers who are

prepared with high-demand EE and RE skills.Manufacturers can also tap the talents of life cycle analysts who

specialize in reducing the long-term environmental impact of products and

packaging. Expect to see new combinations of skills emerge as technical

workers strengthen their customer service skills while the sales staff

begins to master technical details about alternative energy.There is a danger that federal and state policymakers and educational

institutions may not respond quickly to the specific skill needs of

employers in the RE/EE sector. If so, thousands of potential green workers

will not obtain the specialized training they need to fill new job openings.Policy makers launching the green jobs revolution must therefore include

employers, unions, and educational institution