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Editor's Note:  Our guest blogger is Charlie Johnson, Green Jobs Economist, Oregon Employment Department.

 What is the Future of Green Jobs Research?

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis published a number of interesting articles related to green jobs recently, joining the growing ranks of national entities to weigh in on the topic. However, the Minneapolis Fed’s discussion took on a decidedly different tone than that used by other groups – they go so far as to depict a cheery-looking green balloon labeled “The great green hope” being squeezed by a sharp-toothed vice one might find in a metal-worker’s shop. The same balloon is found on another page under imminent threat of being pricked by a nail. The message is clear: the Minneapolis Fed has taken a step back, and wants to be certain that expectations surrounding green jobs match up with the realities of our current economy and job market.

I would like to commend the Minneapolis Fed, and Ronald A. Wirtz, for their courage in taking a stance that is somewhat in opposition to popular discourse. Mr. Wirtz authored all three articles related to green jobs in the October edition of the FedGazette.

In his article “The many shades of green” Mr. Wirtz points out, correctly, that that the act of counting green jobs is somewhat subjective. A number of states around the country have developed their own definitions of “green job”. In addition, different definitions are being used by many national groups ranging from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the PEW Research Center to the Office of the Vice President. Some groups are surveying businesses to identify green jobs, some are estimating jobs by counting industry employment, and others are using economic models to predict green jobs. These problems have been discussed extensively in the Labor Market Information community, and have been addressed by others on this blog (see Michelle Melton’s post). It doesn’t seem there will be any cohesion in green jobs research in the foreseeable future.

However, I think the “shotgun” approach to green jobs definitions and research may actually be a good thing. For example, a number of research projects using different methods and definitions have found that green jobs currently account for less than five percent of the workforce. While the details of each study differ, the general conclusion that green jobs make up a small part of the workforce seems more concrete given the variation of methods and definitions.

This brings us to the crux of Mr. Wirtz’ point, put forth in his article “The great green hope”: are expectations surrounding green jobs disconnected from (or at least greatly exceeding) reality? In the Oregon Employment Department’s green jobs survey, employers in Oregon indicated that green jobs made up only three percent of the state’s non-federal workforce in 2008 (www.QualityInfo.org/Green). While 51,000 green jobs is not an insignificant figure in our medium-small west-coast state, when I give presentations about this information I am often met with shock from audience members – many of whom apparently think the number is or should be much larger. In the same survey, Oregon employers predicted that their green jobs would grow 14 percent by 2010. Compared to a statewide projection of nine percent growth from 2008 to 2018, this double-digit two-year growth projection seems wildly optimistic. While no follow-up survey has been conducted to see if that prediction came true, other research conducted in Oregon indicates that green jobs make up only two percent of all the open positions advertised in the state… not exactly a bellwether for strong economic growth. Even if employers’ predictions were on the mark two years ago, 14 percent growth in green jobs would only equate to 7,400 jobs – in a state that lost about 140,000 jobs over the same two-year period. While any new job is a good thing, it is becoming increasingly clear that green jobs growth alone isn’t going to pull the unemployment rate down to pre-recession levels.

Mr. Wirtz, in his article titled “Green: What role government?” claims the promise of funding has resulted in a patchwork of state and local policies and initiatives designed to draw Federal dollars for job creation despite the fact that economic research (conducted by the Minneapolis Fed) shows “incentive wars among local and state governments to attract or retain jobs… is a zero-sum game at best.” This third article does a good job of framing a conversation about the intersection of environmental, employment, and policy goals.

This discussion of a possible disconnect between the expectations and realities of green jobs leaves me wondering what the proper role of the Labor Market Information community is going forward. Funding that has allowed state workforce agencies to focus on green jobs research over the past few years will likely dry up next summer, when our federally funded grant programs expire. There will undoubtedly be continued interest in, and demand for, information about green jobs. But there is also significant demand for information about health care jobs, manufacturing jobs, high-wage jobs, and many others groups of jobs. I am sure most state workforce research groups will try to continue providing high quality green jobs information, but they will find it increasingly difficult without additional funding.

So, I would like to pose these two questions to the community for discussion:

1.      How much of our limited time, energy, and resources should we invest in continuing to research one small portion of the workforce when there are other areas that may be growing just as much or providing just as many job opportunities?

2.      Given our problems with scarce resources, how should we focus future green jobs research efforts to provide the most useful information possible for data users at the least cost?

Check out this video that contains clips from over twenty Recovery Act Grantees discussing their grant successes, challenges and their experience at the 2010 ARRA Grantee Conference. The complete video testimonials will be posted over the next few months at the Green Jobs Community of Practice.  Please visit this site to view the videos, join the discussions and share with your peers your success stories and challenges.  If you attended the conference, tell us what you think...




The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (the Recovery Act) was intended to preserve and create jobs, promote the nation’s economic recovery, and assist those most impacted by the recession.  The Recovery Act provided $500 million for a program of competitive grants that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.  Those awards were made to 189 grants across the country for green job training and research projects that support a number of green job activities including: job training and placement services; identifying and providing successful career pathways for workers including those currently living in poverty; capacity building for organizations providing job training; the collection, analysis, and dissemination of labor market information; and funds for State Workforce Investment Boards to develop sector strategies that align with the Governor’s overall workforce vision.  Promising practices are beginning to emerge across these grants, and the work of these grantees will inform the Department’s future investments in green.

The Employment and Training Administration (DOL/ETA) would like to hear from key stakeholders including the workforce system, employers, community and technical colleges, federal agencies, and other interested parties who would like to share feedback about future investments in green sectors and occupations.  Over the coming months, ETA will be developing a $40 million grant competition for the Green Jobs Innovation Fund (GJIF), as well as additional grant competitions focused on specific economic sectors and career pathways.  GJIF and other grants programs will provide resources to train workers in green jobs and other sectors, address the ongoing and changing demands of employers, and facilitate pathways to middle class careers for all members of society.  In addition, the grants will focus on underrepresented and disadvantaged populations and the attainment of credentials.

To gather feedback and ideas on gaps in existing green jobs training, ETA is posing a series of questions through its Green Jobs Community of Practice.  ETA is requesting your ideas and input on these questions via the comment section.

   1. What are the green skills that got people directly into jobs?
   2. Are there some skills that lead to better jobs than others?
   3. Are there green skills in demand or in over supply?
   4. What are some key trends in green workforce development that ETA should be aware of?
   5. What are some valuable lessons’ learned about green jobs and the future of green jobs?
   6. What are some of the barriers to green employers and credentials?
   7. Anything else about green workforce development you believe it’s important to share with ETA?

Comments were received until November 26, 2010 and can be viewed by clicking on this link.   We thank you for  your insights and look forward to your participation as we work together to continue the development of America’s green workforce.


November was Veterans Month and we wanted to showcase green job opportunities for our service men and women on our CoP. The video link highlights a non-profit organization- Veterans Green Jobs based in Denver, Colorado that's working hard to make sure our veterans are connected to green jobs.

Our guest blogger Bonnie Graybill, the Deputy Division Chief, Labor Market Information Division from California writes a final farewell blog about  Understanding the Green Economy.   As Bonnie prepares for retirement this month, we wish her all the best and thank her for contributing to our community of practice.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of a new online toolkit to guide employers through the process for hiring veterans. The free toolkit is designed to assist and educate employers who have made the proactive decision to include veterans and wounded warriors in their recruitment and hiring initiatives.

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