The Green-Collar Jobs Revolution – How Environmentally Friendly Industries Can Ease Unemployment

While more and more people find themselves unemployed, the green industry is expanding their workforce and turning a profit. President Obama wants to spend $150 billion over the next ten years to promote renewable energy resources, including providing tax credits and loans to clean-energy companies. The result: the creation of 5 million new jobs.

A recent report from Duke University provided a detailed look at how manufacturing in the U.S. will grow with the implementation of clean-energy industry. Researchers at Duke’s Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness found that five carbon-reducing technologies will produce the most green jobs in the next decade: LED lighting, high-performance windows, auxiliary power units for trucks, solar power, and new methods for treating livestock waste. These technologies will produce the most jobs in states hit hard by the recession, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, the Carolinas, and the Southwest.

The recent stimulus package provides $20 billion for green industries, $500 million specifically for providing more training opportunities for new green collar workers. Because of this, many community colleges are now offering programs to re-train displaced workers to become wind turbine mechanics, solar panel installers, and fuel-cell engineers. Green jobs pay an average of 10 to 20 percent more than similar work outside the field, which is an exciting prospect to many people who are considering re-training for these jobs.

In Texas, a group of community colleges that provide green jobs training had almost 100 percent of their graduates find jobs.

The hardest-hit states are already seeing the benefits of this “green revolution.” Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 9.6%, is home to Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. Hemlock produces solar energy panels that turn sunlight into electricity. While Michigan’s auto industry is in the midst of a potential collapse, Hemlock is spending $3 billion on an expansion that will create hundreds of jobs.

California has the biggest market for solar energy because of its tougher state mandates to cut carbon emissions. This means that solar energy installers are continuing to hire workers while the rest of California’s industries are laying off their staff. New Mexico is also grooming new workers for the green industry. Mesalands Community College has one of the only wind power technician programs in the country, and a major solar company from Germany is building a $100 million plant in Albuquerque. With unemployment at an all-time high around the country, the green industry could provide growth and stabilization in this era of uncertainty while saving our environment.