President Obama’s economic recovery program could create or save 2.5 million green jobs designing, building and maintaining renewable energy projects and increasing the energy efficiency of schools, homes and federal office buildings.
The work funded by the stimulus spending bill includes jobs in fields ranging from ironworking to window manufacturing, power distribution and alternative energy production.
As these jobs are coming online, state energy offices, unions, power companies and community colleges are forming training programs to help new and experienced workers move into green careers.
Whether you’re currently employed or out of work and looking for a stable job in a new field, stimulus spending on green initiatives could create your next position.
The stimulus plan will shift federal funds into several energy-related areas, which would then likely see job growth, including:
- $5 billion to improve energy efficiency in federal buildings, schools and private homes.
- $2.5 billion for construction of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy generation facilities.
- $4.5 billion to build a digital electric grid.
- $3.4 billion to develop new coal and fossil-fuel technologies.
- $2 billion to develop alternative vehicle batteries.
- $6 billion to clean up radioactive waste.
- $1.6 billion to renovate and build labs and research facilities.
- $800 million for biofuel research.
- $400 million for energy research.
Green for All, a green-job advocacy organization, says $500 million of stimulus funding will be directed at green job training. The group’s Green Jobs Guidebook profiles 200 green jobs and provides information on job training, placement and apprenticeship programs in California.
To see what green-job training your state offers, visit your state labor department’s One-Stop Center or your state’s Energy Office.
For those who have at least a high school diploma, entry-level green jobs include working in energy efficiency, power-line construction or building renovation.
Some positions require only brief training. The New Jersey Department of Labor recently funded a 12-week training program that prepared women, ex-offenders and urban teens to work as energy auditors, weatherization inspectors, energy conservation representatives and residential air-sealing technicians. Two weeks after graduation, 10 of the first 13 participants had air-sealing jobs, says program spokesperson Marcela Maziarz.
Weatherization can also be an easy career shift for construction workers. “On the residential side and for smaller commercial buildings, you’d insulate houses; change the heating, air conditioning and lighting to more efficient systems; and replace doors and windows,” says Donald Gilligan, president of the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO). “You could install solar photovoltaic or hot water systems.”
For large commercial buildings, the work menu is the same, but it’s done with larger-scale technology. Either way, stimulus funding for energy-efficiency improvements will put people to work designing and selling energy-efficiency projects, handling installations, and in factories manufacturing the equipment that’s installed.
Build a New Grid
The stimulus plan also calls for a new, digital power grid. Building it will take skilled electricians familiar with high-tension power lines, heavy equipment operators and ironworkers. Like those who build wind, solar and other renewable energy facilities, power-line workers often get their jobs after completing an apprenticeship program that combines classes and on-the-job training.
For many skilled trades, the local union is the source of apprenticeship training. Nationally, the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department will be offering green skills training via a new Center for Green Jobs.
Power companies, such as the Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest, are another source of utility industry apprenticeships.
Some community colleges offer energy industry training. The College of Southern Maryland’s Center for Energy and Trades Training gives students skills in operations, maintenance or construction in one of three sectors: energy generation (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, solar, wind), energy transmission/distribution or energy facility/utility construction.
You’ll find similar renewable energy training projects at schools in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Other programs, such as the electric line worker pre-apprenticeship program at St. Louis Community College in Missouri, focus on a single job.
If you’re unemployed, ask at your local unemployment office if tuition assistance is available to cover the cost of your renewable energy training program.
Looking for Long-Term Stability
As you consider your options among green jobs, think about long-term career prospects. Commercial weatherization might be hot right now as the federal government starts an ambitious program to renovate 75 percent of its buildings, but where will you work after that project is complete?
After earning a spot in the starting lineup, your best bet for continued employment is to continue your education. Earning a four-year degree, picking up an industry credential or getting additional training will make you a more valuable resource to companies that want to green up the planet, while protecting you against a future layoff.
Learn more about energy careers.
Learn more about environmental careers.