Turning "Green" Into Green

An environmentally friendly job market may offer opportunities to black workers

Solutions to problems such as rising fuel prices and limited landfill space are creating a new “green” economy, a burgeoning market that could offer solid, long-term jobs to black and other minority workers.

According to a study conducted by Raquel Rivera Pinderhughes, professor of urban studies at San Francisco State University, entry-level green-collar jobs don’t require higher education, certification, or licenses, yet they pay between $12 and $22 per hour; considerably higher that many jobs available to people with barriers to employment than typically pay $8 to $9 per hour.

Pinderhughes, who conducted her study in the Berkeley, California, area, said these jobs will spread across 22 industries, ranging from bicycle repair and alternative fuel vehicles to food production and waste composting. “Training blacks for these jobs could be very beneficial, because these are high quality jobs in sectors poised for dramatic growth,” says Pinderhughes.

“There’s no one lined up for these kinds of jobs. There’s a whole market out there that, with the right investments, can put blacks and other people of color first in line for these jobs — from the blue-collar worker to Ph.D.s,” says Jakada Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

As an example of the potential this field offers, the alternative energy market (biofuels, wind, solar, etc.), just a part of the overall environmental industry, reached $77.3 billion last year, a 40% growth over 2006. Revenue growth is expected to reach $254.5 billion by 2017, according to a market report released by Clean Edge, a research and publishing firm that helps investors understand clean technologies.

Bobby DuBose, co-founder of Green Builders & Consultants Educational Foundation, targets black males about to be released from prison and helps them find jobs in the green construction trade and auto industry. “I call it a ‘green’ re-entry. These young men help themselves and help the environment,” says DuBose.

Black professional organizations are advocating for a minority presence in green industries. “More important than the advent of green jobs is the advent of green businesses, says Frank M. Stewart, president of the American Association of Blacks in Energy. “One of the more exciting areas of the Association’s current work is in supporting African American entrepreneurs who are interested in the energy field.”

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