Energy Efficiency Markets LLC

Where to find a green job?

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Energy Efficiency Markets LLC

William Carlos Williams began one of his most famous poems: “So much depends upon a red wheel barrow.” Maybe if he were writing today he’d switch ‘red wheelbarrow’ to ‘green job.’

The US is relying on green jobs to push forward economic recovery. Our political leaders promise they are on their way, spurred by $80 billion in stimulus money for efficiency and renewable energy.

But what are green jobs? Who offers them? What training do they require?

Most green jobs are not exotic. In fact, the green job of tomorrow is likely the job you have today (or had before the recession). The product you deliver may be different, but the work is much the same, according to a report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI).

“The vast majority of green jobs are in the same areas of employment that people already work in today, in every region and state of the country. For example, constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting relies, among others, on roofers, insulators and building inspectors,” says Job Opportunities for the Green Economy: A state-by-state picture of occupations that gain from green investments.

Many of the green efficiency jobs are in the building and auto sectors, areas particularly hard hit by this recession. Building retrofits require electricians, heating/air conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation workers, carpenter’s helpers, industrial truck drivers, construction managers, and building inspectors. Manufacturing plug-in electric vehicles and other efficient cars take the work of computer software engineers, electrical engineers, engineering technicians, welders, transportation equipment painters, metal fabricators, computer-controlled machine operators, engine assemblers, production helpers and operations managers.

Many of these jobs are the old blue collar variety. What sets a green job apart is that it supports energy efficiency, renewable energy or some other environmentally beneficial product.

High-tech workers also are likely to benefit from the green boom, especially as the nation begins to create a smart grid, most often characterized as a system that allows your refrigerator and utility to ‘talk’ and save you energy and money. By some estimates the smart grid may create as many as 280,000 jobs in the next five years. As a result, many of the old names in technology are moving into energy, among them Cisco, IBM, Google and Hewlett Packard.

So if you want a green job, you may not have to look too far beyond where you’d find your wheelbarrow. Right in your back yard.

Visit energy writer Elisa Wood at and pick up her free EE Markets newsletter and podcast.

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