Where's The Green Labor Force? There!

Earlier this week a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) revealed top strategies for dealing with global warming where the transition to a green collar economy is concerned. The report's main finding is that skills and experience is available in abundance throughout the US.

Millions of people who might not even know it themselves have all the skills and experience to qualify as green collar workers, the NRDC believes. The organization commissioned external experts of the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to research six key possible strategies to establish the green economy; building retrofitting, mass transit, energy-efficient automobiles, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels.

The report's outcome is that the changes involved with transitioning to a green economy are not overwhelmingly big when one considers the labor issues involved. Across the country people already work in the sectors that are set to address climate change issues, be they in charge of weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, building wind turbines or cooking up biofuels, the sectors that will be undertaking these activities are already established.

The study follows narrowly on the heels of the Green-Collar Jobs in America’s Cities and Greener Pathways, which was issued last month by a coalition of non-profit environmental and economic research organizations. The document addresses federal and local authorities and follows up on the Green Collar Jobs Act, the $125 million job creation package approved last December by congress. The May study outlines a strategic framework for developing green-collar job initiatives and pathways out of poverty at the local and state levels. It also focuses on the need for federal support to fully realize the potential of the green movement.

One big question everybody asks is whether the rise of the green collar sector will have any effect on unemployment. Recent data has not been encouraging because unemployment has risen in the construction, manufacturing and retail sectors. But you have to realize that despite all the talk, the green collar sector has yet to take off in a legislative sense.

New jobs are created because of commitment to a clean energy economy and they're likely to not only be of high quality, but their very creation might mean that labor is no longer outsourced to other countries. The wind farming industry for instance could be a potential source for labor for people (formerly) employed in the metal industry whose jobs are now taken by those in Asia. That's not to mention the plethora of work involved in weatherizing residences.

So the future might be very different. There's a strong and growing conviction among business leaders and environmentalists alike that key to combating global warming is that economic prosperity goes hand in hand with climate change measures. Investing in alternative energy simply translates directly into growing the economy from the grassroots because it requires welders, carpenters, electrical engineers and many more crafts. This realization is not new but more work is involved before it actually will be seen in the statistics.Think tanks like the NRDC facilitate the new mindset by publishing their research to an audience of both politicians and society at large. The actual green sector on the ground is for the time being spearheaded by business, some industrial activity and scores of individual home owners keen to promote energy conservation. At government level, the Green Jobs Act is now beginning to move.

The Act finances the research of identifying needed skills, the development of training programs and direct training of people that will be employed in variousrenewable energy and energy efficiency industries. In conjunction with the Green Jobs Act, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, aims to distribute $2 billion to local communities which are retrofitting to save on energy. The grant is envisioned to created tens of thousands of green-collar jobs.

The NRDC study was co sponsored by the Green Jobs for America Campaign.

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