Grabbing African Americans by the Green Collar

Programs target minority communities for job training

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Trainees in a green jobs training program performs rooftop maintenance. (Source: The Majora Carter Group L.L.C.)

When many black people think of jobs that create environmental efficiency, they often think of Buck Rogers and space-age technology. That misconception could potentially keep black workers out of the green-collar industry, which is predicted to be the largest employment wave the country has seen in decades.

“A green job isn’t only just a new job, but it tweaks existing jobs that existing business owners can do if they have the education. A roofer in the community can easily get training to become a solar installer. The demand for solar is going to increase more than the demand to put shingles up,” says Philip O’Neal, a founder of Green DMV, a non-profit that promotes green jobs for low-income communities in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. “A landscaper can easily go from laying sod on the ground to putting green roofs on the rooftops of homes.”

While the majority of green jobs are held by engineers and consultants, there is also a growing need to build a blue-green workforce so that the local painter, roofer, or landscaper can also ride the green jobs wave.

Green jobs exist within a broad range of industries, so the education and training necessary to get these jobs is diverse,” says Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the CEO of Green For All, an organization dedicated to an inclusive green economy.

President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $500 million for green-collar training. It also invests a lot of money to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, which will create a lot of immediate jobs for workers who have skills in energy auditing, says Ellis-Lamkins. According to a 2008 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors “U.S. Metro Economies: Current and Potential Green Jobs in the U.S. Economy” 85% of green jobs were located in metropolitan areas in 2006.

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