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Chasing Green Jobs
Posted on March 31, 2011 by Shonda Ranson
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Buried in President Obama's speech was the mention that other countries are investing more in clean tech than the U.S.A. and chasing the jobs that come with it. In California, where the NOVA Workforce Investment Board asks me to research and follow the trends of the Energy industry to determine where jobs might be, the timing couldn't have been more punctual.

The "green" industry is both mature and fledgling. As a panelist from the Clean Economy Network said at the SolarTech Leadership Summit in Santa Clara, CA, Tuesday "we need to stop calling them 'green jobs' and 'green companies' and start talking about 'jobs' and 'companies'" because there is no separation in this post-recession world. Still, the idea of 'green jobs' saving us from our high unemployment still trumpets loudly in the press on a regular bases, causing major confusion for desperate job seekers who keep hearing that these "green jobs" are going to put them back to work.

So I thought this would be a good time to throw out some bullet-point reality checks about 'green jobs':


  • Touches every industry in some way. What company doesn't want to save money by being more efficient, paying less for utilities, and ensuring that they have a product to sell to the market for a really long time? Green practices in any company has been proven to save a LOT of money, which can in turn be invested in a quality workforce who feels a lot better about working there (Source article).


  • Has been around for a very long time. No, I'm not just talking about Californian hippies. The construction trades, particularly HVAC and Electricians, have been in the energy efficiency business since the Great Depression. (Building Trades for Climate Change)


  • Core skills are the same as other industries. That’s right. Most ‘green’ companies will hire you if you demonstrate strong core technical skills in areas like engineering, quality control, sales, and customer service. The ‘green’ part they are willing to teach you on the job. (PG&E’s Energy Competencies Model)


  • Higher skilled labor more likely to get hired, right now. The “low-hanging fruit” entry-level positions are becoming fewer and far between. In states like California, Colorado, and even New Jersey where good government policies have incentivized renewables, efficiency, and conservation practices, the mature side of the industry is flooded. The good news is that the fledgling side of clean tech is startups and cool, new technologies that people are still dreaming up. The bad news is that startups are very small, it’s PhD’s dreaming in a lab, and the utility regulatory bodies haven’t yet approved most of them for actual use. (Coming soon… work2future and NOVA’s joint study “Emerging Green Job in Silicon Valley” by BW Research and Green LMI research firms. Until then, check out UC Berkeley’s “California Workforce, Education, and Training Needs Assessment for Energy Efficiency, Distributed Generation and Demand Response.”)


So where does this leave people trying to break into the industry? We asked employers what was most likely to get new candidates hired into green jobs: credentials, experience, networking, or passion for the industry. Across the board, the employers said that networking was most important, followed by experience, then passion for the industry, and finally there was a mixed response on which credentials actually made a difference. This means that all of these Earth Day festivals and Green Conferences going on are probably a job seeker’s first foot into the door of a new green job.


At NOVA, we’re looking at it one step further and saying that if people have the core job skills from their previous job and get an overview of the industry enough to discuss it intelligently with a perspective employer, they are more likely to be hired over someone who doesn’t understand the basics of electricity or what a smart grid is and isn’t.




Originally posted by Clarke Gocker,  Green for All Fellow Candidate on Mar 21, 2011 on the Green for All website.

Acumen Insulation is a local minority-owned weatherization contractor and key ally in our GJGNY coalitions. The house featured in the image is PUSH's net-zero energy rehab demonstration project.

After being signed into law in late 2009 by then Governor David Paterson, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) finally launched the initial phases of an innovative new statewide residential energy efficiency program called Green Jobs/Green NY (GJGNY) this past fall.

The program seeks to weatherize 1 million homes in 5 years and create 60,000 high quality jobs for New York State residents. It is being funded by revenue from the sale of CO2 emission allowances as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade program. 

Residents earning up to 200% of area median income can currently receive free or reduced-cost energy assessments from BPI-accredited home performance contractors and can finance energy efficiency upgrades through a low interest loan product being offered by NYSERDA.

Several of the more progressive and transformative program elements that will make GJGNY standout as a truly innovative model to scale up the home performance industry and put people to work have yet to be implemented. Therefore, opportunities exist for continued public engagement and grassroots mobilization around these critical issues.

As a Green for All Fellow candidate and staff member with People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo) in Buffalo, NY, I am helping to lead local and statewide organizing efforts involving coalitions of responsible contractors, training organizations, and workers. These GJGNY coalitions are focused on the following set of issues:

A. Implementing a community-based GJGNY program model capable of driving unprecedented customer demand and putting people to work

  1. Transforming the market for energy efficiency improvements using innovative outreach strategies and financing tools;
  2. Training a new and incumbent workforce for family sustaining career pathway jobs; 
  3. Connecting disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities to training pipelines and employment opportunities with local contractors and businesses; 
  4. Reducing barriers to entry for building trades unions interested in partnering with contractors and community groups on high road workforce agreements;
  5. Expanding the base of certified and accredited women and minority-owned contractors able to participate in energy efficiency programs administered by New York State; and (6.) Broadening the scope of work that is eligible for GJGNY financing to include health and environmental hazard remediation and abatement that adheres to a Green and Healthy Homes approach.

PUSH Buffalo is working closely with other statewide stakeholders, including the Center for Working Families, to achieve these objectives and recently submitted a proposal to NYSERDA to perform customer outreach and coordinate workforce development in the GJGNY program following a community-based implementation model that will deliver community workforce benefits.

B. Advocating for passage of landmark state legislation that would create an on-bill recovery financing mechanism

If passed, on-bill recovery will allow GJGNY customers to finance energy efficiency retrofits directly on their utility bill using the energy savings generated after eligible measures are installed. On-bill recovery would eliminate the upfront financial costs of participating in the GJGNY program and would substantially reduce the economic risks to moderate income households (60% - 120% of area median income) that have difficulty accessing safe and affordable credit or that continue to be targeted by predatory financial institutions pedaling high risk consumer loan products.

Consumer advocates are now joining home performance contractor trade associations, community-based stakeholders, and working families across New York State in the fight to win a legislative mandate for on-bill recovery. These groups are planning coordinated community mobilization events - town hall meetings and rallies - for early April, 2011 to raise public awareness and popular support for this issue, and to call on state legislators and the governor to work together to get this legislation enacted.

For more information about on-bill recovery and related advocacy efforts in New York State please visit:

Green Capacity Building Grant from Workforce3 One on Vimeo.

Lance Wise of Cobb Housing Inc. highlights how their grant funded a program that has become a business and community.

Editor's Note:  Let's welcome a new blogger to our community- Vien Truong, Senior Associate, Green For All.  She writes about the challenges our youth face and solutions that may give them hope.









Our country’s youth face some steep challenges.  The numbers on education and labor give us sobering news on the future of our country. 

For every 10 students who enter 9th grade, 7 will graduate high school.  Four will enter college and only two will complete an associates degree or higher.  Many schools in low-income communities are graduating less than 50% of their students.  In Oakland, where I grew up and currently live, some schools are graduating less than 25% of their students.  

The U.S. economy will produce 15.6 million net new jobs from 2006 to 2016.   Most of these new jobs will require some education or training beyond high school but less than a college degree. Jobs requiring postsecondary credentials are growing twice as fast as jobs that do not.   This means that many of our youth do not and will not qualify for the new jobs being created.  

Why must we tackle youth unemployment when there are many adults who are unemployed?  Youth can be stuck in dead-end jobs as adults if they do not begin building work skills towards a career. Linda Harris, Director of Youth Policy at the Center for Law and Social Policy, points out that youth develop and labor-market skills between 16 to 24 years old through internships, part-time and summer jobs, and other vocational and career awareness experiences.  Through work experiences, youth are exposed to the workplace and its varied expectations, learn skills, develop a work portfolio, and explore their interests.  These experiences are important and have been shown to improve their future labor-market success and earnings.   

We must work to create pathways towards well-paying careers for youth, especially for youth who are “at risk” or are not in school or working.   We must prepare youth for well-paying jobs in high growth sectors – jobs that will be available when they graduate from training and education programs.  One key focus should be to develop jobs in the environmental sectors. 

Jobs in the environmental sector have been one of the few bright spots in our recovering economy.  California’s green businesses, for example, have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average since 2005.  Green-collar jobs can be in various sectors including water, energy, transportation, waste and recycling, and manufacturing.  By connecting youth to green-collar jobs, we are creating career pathways and opportunities for youth to help alleviate some of the public health hazards in their communities.  These green jobs can begin to improve the conditions of low-income communities that suffer disproportionately from cancer, asthma, and other respiratory ailments from our current pollution-based economy. 

We can address multiple problems simultaneously by creating youth opportunities in environmental sectors.   There are great organizations that are doing this work, including Austin’s American YouthWorks, Denver’s Mile High Youth Corps, and Richmond’s Rising Sun Energy.   These organizations show us what is possible when we invest in youth workforce opportunities. 

As we at Green For All roll up our sleeves to develop solutions for youth and workforce development, I hope that you will join us. 

From and designed for students, but it's a worthwhile resource for our community too.  This site lists the top 50 Best Blogs for Green Business Students.  It's the place to be to learn about the ins and outs of green business and just what all it takes to be a pioneer in this growing field.