Although more than a year has passed since Congress authorized the $787 billion stimulus plan, funds continue to flow into the economy and create jobs. Nearly $42 billion, much of it from the plan, is targeting energy. Environmental advocates have high hopes for what some call the Green Deal—President Obama’s plan to create millions of jobs by developing alternative sources of energy and encouraging energy-saving construction and infrastructure programs. Even more opportunities may materialize through pending climate-change legislation and corporations working to reduce their energy bills.
As the economy recovers from the loss of more than 8 million jobs since the recession began, the clean-technology sector will play an important role. “Energy and green jobs have the potential to be the next big driver of the economy,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm. “There’s great potential for job creation and entrepreneurship around sustainability.”
The huge federal investment is seeding thousands of businesses and creating energy-related jobs, especially in the building trades and for contractors specializing in energy efficiency and alternative power.
The Hottest Areas
Expected to be among the hottest job fields are electrical contracting; mechanical, chemical, environmental and civil engineering; welding; installation of solar, wind and geothermal energy systems; energy analysis; and accounting and auditing.
Unless you are already trained or educated in an area favored by the Green Deal, you may need to obtain some retraining to tap into these opportunities.
If you’re in the building trades, it would be helpful to have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation. The LEED program, administered by the Green Building Certification Institute, certifies buildings as energy-efficient and employs people with knowledge of environmental building standards and ratings. In order to obtain the LEED credential, you’d need to pass a test.
While there’s no law that requires LEED certification of buildings, it will be much more in demand if Congress passes comprehensive legislation to fight global climate change. Buildings account for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 72 percent of electricity consumption, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
The federal climate-change legislation, which has passed the House and is winding its way through the Senate, will likely become a jobs bill that will create even more opportunities.
Backers hope the bill will set a comprehensive national policy to fund a “smart” electricity grid with online metering, set a national standard for producing electricity from renewable resources, fund job training and direct building owners to carry out energy-efficient retrofits.
Private Industry Joining In
In addition to the federal government, private industry is also engaged in the Green Deal.
About 1.3 million green-collar jobs a year are expected to be generated through 2030, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Companies of all sizes, from mega-corporations like Wal-Mart to local laundromats, are interested in reducing operating costs by cutting utility bills. That means growing opportunities for energy auditors, green builders, alternative-energy installers and engineers.
Keep in mind that some places will be better than others for green jobs. According to Clean Edge, a green technology consulting firm, the top job markets will be the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. States with big programs for alternative energy, such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Wisconsin, will be hotbeds for solar-energy installers, engineers and energy-efficiency consultants.