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,â€ 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.â€
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,â€ 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. Economyâ€ 85% of green jobs were located in metropolitan areas in 2006.