Sunday, March 1, 2009

From Blue to "Green-Collar" Jobs

A new sector is growing for America’s labor and service workforce: a demand for these workers in renewable energy. Employees who were once construction workers, or other forms of labor, are now headed to the classroom to be adequately trained for this new industry. Such is the case at Cero Coso Community College in California City, California, where they are offering an eight-week program on how to repair and maintain wind turbines at a tuition cost of $1,000. The cost for this program is a steal considering that a technician can earn anywhere from $15 to $20 per hour, and some technicians can earn up to six figures a year, causing individuals from all over the country to flock to this community college to attend the program.

The demand in such a workforce stems from a rise in the renewable energy industry and from federal pushing towards more renewable energy. For example, in 2008 the US was the world’s No. 1 wind-powered country, placing Germany in second. Wind-power currently generates approximately 25,000 megawatts throughout the country. It is projected that wind could provide 20% of America’s electricity demands by 2030, according to report by the US Department of Energy. Currently, California is No. 3 of all the states for wind energy, prompting the state to take action and provide proper training to prepare workers to meet these demands. Furthermore, there is political support in expanding this industry. President Obama has recently stated that five million new jobs for renewable energy will be created within the next 10 years. The creation of numerous jobs in renewable energy will need workers to have the skills necessary for its operations.

The Advanced Transportation Technologies and Energy program (ATTE) was created over fifteen years ago by the California Community College’s Economic and Workforce Development Program to train individuals towards a more technology-driven industry, specifically in transportation and energy, and keep California as a leader in this industry. ATTE not only focuses on wind energy, but offers a range of fields, such as Gaseous Fuel Program for Heavy Duty Vehicles, Railroad Operation Programs, and Automotive Clean Air Car Emissions programs. This program is partnered with numerous business and agencies like United Airlines, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ford, General Motors, and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Such partnerships facilitate ATTE students to attain employment quickly. A goal of ATTE is to have 50 schools within the state to offer more wind training programs, as stated by Peter Davis, director of ATTE.

Moreover, other states offer similar programs in wind energy, with high success rates. In New Mexico, Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari began its wind program in fall of 2008 with 32 students. Each of those students was offered guaranteed employment for three years by General Electric (GE), which prompted more students to attend. Iowa Lakes Community College offers a two-year program in wind energy and students are typically offered two to three jobs upon completion of the program.

In Texas, the Austin Community College (ACC) Workforce Development Center has teamed up with the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) to offer the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Certificate Program. NABCEP is the national certification organization for those who work as professional installers within renewable energy. Though the NABCEP Entry Level Certificate Program that is offered by ACC focuses on solar energy, it is another tangible example of the growing demand of training more “green-collard” workers to be prepared for this field.

For those in declining blue-collar jobs, green-collar jobs are providing new opportunities for these workers. Many have been unemployed for months due to tough economic downturn and this will offer a new avenue towards employment and job security.


Advance Transportation Technology and Energy
Community College Times
Iowa Lakes Community College
Los Angeles Times
North American Board of NABCEP
Texas State Energy Conservation Office
US Department of Energy

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