CleanEdison's Annual Essay Contest
2014 - Coming Soon
2013 - Jobs and the Green Economy
Significant unemployment and underemployment in the United States has been the focus of the nation's political discourse since 2009. Unfortunately, with traditional sectors struggling, both experienced workers and unemployed individuals are finding it difficult to find work. The truth is that traditional industries such as construction, electrical, HVAC, plumbing and engineering are in an extremely favorable position to be re-trained for green jobs. However, often times, those in the construction and trades sectors are completely unaware of the projected impacts of energy efficiency and renewable energy. More important still, they lack the knowledge that their current skills are particularly prime for filling the positions the green economy is creating. In addition, opportunities exist for the low-skilled workforce in areas such as building material reuse and deconstruction.
CleanEdison is looking for a bright, young scholar to write a 750 word essay on the growth of the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors, the effects this will have on job creation and the need for skills training to meet this demand. The essays will be evaluated on the quality of writing and depth of research on the topic. The winning essay will be show-cased on CleanEdison's website for one year and the student will receive a $500 scholarship.
Essay Length - 750 words
Due Date - April 1st, 2013
Scholarship Amount - $500
Eligibility Criteria - Any current student between 17 and 23 years of age
2013 Winner - Patrick Jackson
Jobs and the Green Economy
Despite some level of economic recovery since the market crash of 2009, there is still a disconnect between those looking for work, and the jobs available. In order to take advantage of an eager workforce, we must encourage the development of their skills in emerging energy technologies, such as solar, wind, geothermal, smart grid, hybrid and electric vehicles, and energy efficiency.
President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided almost $60 million specifically for green jobs training. This money went to work training home inspectors to perform energy audits, electricians to install solar panels, and the unemployed to learn deconstruction and material conservation skills. Because of this, the clean energy economy has grown four times faster than the overall economy. And this growth has been fueled by more than just government subsidies; studies have shown that a properly trained workforce has a direct impact on lowering the costs for project developers, consumers and inspection authorities.
But this one-time stimulus in ending; it is now left to the states and business community to take up the task of training enough skilled workers to meet the increasing demand for these technologies. As the costs of traditional sources of fuel continue to rise, more businesses, institutions and homeowners are looking for alternative methods to heat their building and power their lives. This rising demand for services must be matched with a rising supply of workers with skills and experience in these systems if the growth trend is to continue at its torrent pace.
Fortunately, the traditional construction trades, such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and engineers have a foundation of knowledge that should make this transition seamless. As long as these workers have support and access to becoming trained and certified in emerging clean energy technologies, this sector will continue to be a driver of economic growth and prosperity.
This support must come from a variety of sources. Fostering more partnerships between education institutions, government, utilities and the private sector is the only way to implement green skills training successfully. Not only is there an opportunity for those in struggling industries, such as home construction, to gain new skills, there is an opportunity for those graduating high school to gain a strong foundation immediately and enter the workforce directly.
This partnership must leverage private funding in order to get the full potential out of public support networks. Although these networks have been successful in identifying those most in needs of training and career development, too many of these workforce investment agencies have mistakenly not prioritized green skills training. Too often these centers have encouraged basic training in soft skills like interviewing techniques and communication, which, while important, will not be enough to grow economic prosperity.
The green economy requires hands-on technical skills that can be relatively easily learned and applied to existing technologies. Yet, a major barrier exists - the perception of availability of jobs. Media highlights of clean energy businesses that have failed in recent years have had a profound effect on the perception of this industry. What these anecdotal accounts miss is that the companies that have failed are those that are facing stiff international competition, such as solar manufacturers. The sectors that are succeeding are those that cannot be outsourced or taken overseas. Solar installations, home energy audits, sustainable architecture, and countless other growing industries must be done domestically and therefore should be a high focus of support.
Another barrier to entering the skilled trades is the view that these jobs do not pay as well as more traditional industries. However, studies have shown that those who adapt their existing skills to a green job earn 11 percent more than their counterparts who do not add these skills. In addition, adding new services helps diversify small businesses that have historically been completely dependent on the economic health of their industry.
There are a variety of reasons that we as a country should encourage the development of green skills in our workforce. From confronting global climate change, to providing insulation against rising energy costs, our competitiveness as a nation is dependent on our ability to develop the skills of the people who will be building these industries. There is a massive energy infrastructure that will have to be completely revamped in the coming decades, and a workforce that is eager to get to work. There is still time, but the work must begin today to develop these skills in our current workforce, the unemployed and the underemployed.