If a new green jobs program unveiled by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday has its intended effect, lack of ability will no longer stand in the way of many Californians’ efforts to join the green work force. The $75 million plan would train more than 20,000 workers for jobs in the clean energy sector, thereby somewhat alleviating (in theory) the state’s history-making unemployment rate. Yet I’m unconvinced: will these effects be a mere drop in the bucket called “California’s job market”?
Schwarzenegger revealed the plan in Los Angeles’ Trade-Technical College, the Los Angeles Times reports. The program is intended to train both young workers and the unemployed in green building design and weatherization and solar installation. A $20 million injection from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and funds from the California Energy Commission, community groups, and educational institutions, will fund the program.
According to a report by Treehugger.com, there has been a significant demand for a renewable energy workforce in the last couple of years, and a correlating increase in interest in solar education classes. The Treehugger writer asserts that these increases are significant for the sustainability movement in two basic ways: they prove that there is no longer a choice between economics and the environment and that increasing green technology will also increase green job availability.
Nonetheless, I imagine that workers’ opinions on this plan are as diverse as workers themselves. On one hand, the Governor’s plan says a lot about the state’s efforts to invest in its long-term well-being by ensuring green work force capability. The plan could also be a valuable tool in the belt of individuals not otherwise equipped to train themselves for careers in sustainable industry. On the other hand, I wonder if green job training is a viable solution for, say, unemployed white-collar workers (whose educations are not necessarily in-progress or in transition), or for individuals not seeking careers in sustainable technology. And, while having a legitimate skill set is crucial for employability, being trained for a job doesn’t necessarily ensure that one will actually be hired….
In musings like these, I usually come back to one basic question: will relatively localized solutions have a big enough effect on the nation’s bigger picture, or will they primarily benefit the regions or groups they target? In other words, will increasing states’ green technology and tech-job training programs affect the national sustainable job market, or will their benefits be limited to certain groups of employees?