Green Collar Workforce Development


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Grad school research paper on "green collar" workforce development policy.

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Green Collar Workforce Development

  1. 1. GREEN COLLAR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT POLICIES • PROGRAMS • STRATEGIES Robert Moreo Wayne State University State, Regional and Local Economic Development – UP6550 March 9, 2010
  2. 2. Introduction W hat is “green”? The fields of renewable energy production, green product manufacturing, renovating buildings for energy efficiency, recycling, transportation, environmental monitoring and remediation of contaminated sites – all of these emerging sectors make up the “green” economy. These industry groups and others frequently indicate that there is a shortage of the skilled, qualified employees necessary to expand their business. However, not all green jobs will be in these industries or their immediate suppliers; in order to truly build a workforce for a competitive future, we need to take the approach of preparing for “a world where every sector will incorporate aspects of sustainability.” (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) The purpose of this paper is to analyze the various steps and components of developing a green- collar workforce. What are the common goals of successful green jobs initiatives? How do they vary and how can they be tailored to suit local economies? What policies need to be put in place to drive market demand for green products and services? How should the green-collar workforce be trained? What are the characteristics of a green-collar job? How can practitioners leverage program success into future political support and financial backing? These questions and more generate much debate between green advocates and policymakers. This report is a study of many of the models currently in place across the United States, including a specific case-study of New York City’s Green Collar Jobs Roadmap, as well as an attempt to relate to some of the policies and programs in place in the State of Michigan. Identifying Goals “O ur green future will be invented at the local level.” (Green Collar Jobs in America's Cities, 2008) The first step in developing a successful green jobs workforce development strategy is to identify or set local environmental goals and targets. When a municipality or other unit of governance puts in place a goal of reducing energy use or carbon emissions, a market is created for the products and services needed to meet the goal. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC 2030, which included 127 different initiatives to reduce energy use, clean up land and water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other goals. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Without the goals set forth in the
  3. 3. Mayor’s plan, the city’s emerging green business sectors would not be growing at the rate they are today. Once environmental goals have been set, strategies can be built to identify and train for the specific skills needed to meet the targets. Governors in a significant number of states are making sector strategies a central element of their state workforce and economic development policies. The defining elements of state sector initiatives include a focus on customized solutions for a specific industry at a regional level, a central role for a workforce intermediary in bringing the industry partnerships together, and the dual goals of promoting the competitiveness of industries and advancing the employment of low- and middle-income workers. (Ligot-Gordon, Oldmixon, Woolsey, & Simon, 2006) We will look deeper in the next section into how government policies can drive market demand for green products and services. Another goal to set for a workforce development program is what population of workers the initiative intends to serve. An assessment of what existing job programs are in place – what skills those programs are developing, and what kind of workers are participating in the program – is important in planning for a new green jobs initiative. It is crucial to include key stakeholders within the community to be served – including governments, faith and community groups, business leaders and educational groups – and to have this well-rounded task force in place to develop the programs. If it is a goal to reduce poverty and provide opportunities to disadvantaged residents, then partnerships with agencies that serve these communities need to be formed early in the development process. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Stimulating Demand for Green Collar Workers A common theme throughout the recent literature studying green workforce development is the necessity for government policy to increase market drivers to ensure that actual jobs exist. The intent is to “encourage market participation until a tipping point is reached, and public subsidies are no longer needed.” (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Federal, state and local policy can expand demand for green- collar workers both directly and indirectly. Direct public sector investment often comes in the form of government commitment to install renewable energy systems on public buildings, commitment to convert public transportation and government vehicle fleets to alternative fuels, building mass transit infrastructure, retrofitting existing public buildings for energy efficiency, and commitment to constructing
  4. 4. new public buildings to meet green building certification standards. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Committing to a strategy for reducing municipal energy use can be a major component of ensuring a city’s long-term competitiveness and viability. In New York City (and most major metropolitan centers) building operations – heating, cooling and electricity – are by far the primary consumer of energy. Investing in energy efficiency now can reduce the amount the city needs to spend on energy in future budgets. As part of the PlaNYC 2030 initiative to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, the city is investing 10 percent of its energy budget – about $80 million in FY 2008 – to finance municipal building efficiency projects. These projects are expected to create 124,000 jobs in engineering, construction and maintenance over the next decade. The city has also started the process of having 2 megawatts of solar panels installed on municipal building rooftops. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) When the City of Chicago committed to purchase solar panels, it attracted two solar power manufacturers to the city. (ibid) In 2007, the State of Michigan Department of Management and Budget began an energy reduction program to reduce expenditures by 10% in 2008, and an additional 10% by 2015. The state also encourages ongoing energy management in state-owned facilities by offering a financial incentive to departments that have taken energy-saving actions and can document the energy cost savings. Departments may retain seventy-five percent (75%) of their certified energy cost avoidance to fund additional energy efficiency projects during the next fiscal year. (Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth) New York City and other municipalities around the country are also developing urban forestry as a green initiative. Increasing urban green space improves air quality, helps manage stormwater runoff, can reduce energy use by providing shade, and can even provide local, healthy sources of produce through community gardens. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Parks and other greenery also tend to attract residents and tourists to a city or state. Jobs are created in park maintenance, landscape design and construction. Several programs in New York City are directly injecting public funding into green development: the GreenStreets program is a partnership between the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation, which is converting paved islands and medians into planted spaces. The MillionTreesNYC program is a ten-year initiative of the Parks Department to plant a million trees by 2017. The city is also planning to expand or construct eight large parks in all five boroughs. Cities aren’t confined to the ground when considering where to add greenery. Green roof projects can help lower building temperatures, filter rainwater and air pollution, and reduce the urban “heat island” effect. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) The city of Chicago is leading the way nationally in green roof
  5. 5. investment. In 2001, the city installed over 20,000 square feet of green roof plantings at city hall. A rainwater collection and irrigation system helps maintain the vegetation. Chicago also implemented a grant program, providing 20 grants to residents and small businesses to install green roofs. As of October 2006 there were more than 250 public and private green roofs totaling more than a million square feet either built or under construction. (Chicago, City of) There is even an example of a local health food store converting its roof to grow herbs for sale to the public. New York City also features a one-year property tax credit to help offset the cost of installing green roofs. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Besides the direct purchase of green products and services to stimulate demand, public funding is a significant way in which government policy affects the market for green collar jobs. Funding for public and private green investment can come from sources such as local bonds and tax assessments, and state and federal block grant and loan programs. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) The federal energy bill passed in 2007 created a new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, which was then funded in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly known as the Stimulus Bill or ARRA). Congress allocated $3.2 billion for this program, through both formula and competitive grants, which can be used for a wide variety of conservation and efficiency initiatives at the state and local level – some will be spent directly on projects, while some can be used in other indirect ways. 59% of the formula funding was allocated to cities and counties, and 24% was at the state level. The State of Michigan was allotted $77.7 million of this funding. (US Department of Energy) Governments can also provide indirect market incentives, through tax policy, building codes, and other means of assistance. The most common method of indirect market stimulation is through tax incentives, rebates and other credits. For example, New York’s City Council successfully pushed the state to pass a property tax abatement for solar panel installations. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) At the federal level, the ARRA provided $300 million for an energy efficiency appliance rebate program. The famous “Cash for Clunkers” program provided up to a $4500 credit upon turning in an older vehicle to purchase a more efficient new one. The federal government also allows tax credits for such residential efficiency investments as: insulation, windows, HVAC equipment, water heaters and certain roofing products. These products must meet high criteria for efficiency to allow taxpayers to claim the credit, thus stimulating a demand for the more expensive, more efficient product. The State of Michigan, as well as many others, offers similar credits. Nationwide there are over 1000 personal, property, corporate and sales tax incentives, rebates, grants or loans available for energy efficiency projects. (North Carolina Solar Center)
  6. 6. An additional step that can help integrate market-driving incentive programs with workforce development initiatives is to require recipients of municipal tax credits and other incentives to participate in the development in some way. Businesses could be required to hire employees from the programs, or be required to implement additional job training programs of their own. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Job standards – including living wage and benefit requirements, local hiring preferences, and safety considerations – should be a requirement for companies receiving public money. Community benefits agreements created between developers and local community organizations require the developer to support a range of job readiness programs. The goal of the agreement is to create a pool of job-ready applicants from the local community to fill the new jobs in a development. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Green building codes and other regulatory legislation can have an impact on the market for green building products and jobs. In New York City, the 2009 Greener, Greater Buildings Plan required buildings over 50,000 square feet in area to benchmark energy and water use, undergo periodic energy audits and implement certain retrofit measures. The legislation is predicted to create over 2000 new jobs in energy auditing and building management, as well as thousands of temporary construction jobs over a ten-year period. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) While the State of Michigan’s building codes have been recently upgraded to require higher standards of energy efficiency, state law forbids local municipalities from requiring stricter building codes. Legislation is pending in the State House (HB 4575) that would amend the law to allow localities to adopt tougher, specific green building standards as their code. Cities that choose to do so could then be viewed as good locations for green businesses to locate, since there will be a market for their services. Governments can also subsidize the certification of contractors who perform energy efficiency testing as a way of stimulating the market. The Building Performance Institute certifies energy analysts and auditors, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) reimburses contractors for the cost of training and certification. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Portfolio standards are sets of goals that states put in place that specify certain percentages of energy production that must come from renewable sources, or that specify certain percentages of energy use reduction to be achieved through efficiency measures. The level at which a state is willing to commit itself to a portfolio standard is seen as a signal of how committed they are to green policies in general. States with low or no standards may not be seen as ideal locations for green businesses to locate. On October 6, 2008, Michigan’s Public Act 295 was signed into law. The Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act established an Integrated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 10 percent by 2015. Energy providers must comply with this new standard through renewable energy generation,
  7. 7. renewable energy credits, and energy optimization schemes. The bill specifies biomass, solar photovoltaics and solar thermal energy, wind energy, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, and energy generated from landfill gas capture as potential sources of renewable energy. Up to 10 percent of the RPS can be met with advanced clean energy technologies that reduce emissions by 85 percent relative to average coal power plant emissions or integrated gasification combined cycle facilities that reduce emissions by 70 percent. (Pew Center on Global Climate Change) New York has two standards in place. The Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard requires that 15 percent of New York State’s reduction in energy use must come from efficiency projects. The EEPS is projected to create over 50,000 jobs in the next three years. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) On September 22, 2004, The New York Public Service Commission also adopted a renewable portfolio standard. The standard requires that 25 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2013. (Pew Center on Global Climate Change) This makes the State of New York appear to be the more welcoming of the two to green businesses. Preparing the Green Collar Workforce T he next step that states and other levels of government must take is to link their goals and policies to a set of workforce development programs that will provide the skilled workforce needed to reach the targets. Without the goals and policies of market stimulation described above, such workforce training is speculative at best. As was stated previously, green collar jobs initiatives should focus on jobs that are actually going to exist. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) In an environment where workforce development programs are often already fragmented, it makes sense for green collar training initiatives to develop within or expand from existing programs. Many of the jobs needed in a greener economy are an expansion of industries and jobs we already have. This should mean less focus on creating new courses of study, and greater emphasis on embedding green curricula into existing courses of study. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Incorporating green collar training into existing programs is also the most cost-effective way to integrate training and recruitment strategies into a city or state’s green initiatives. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) One example of how to achieve this integration would be to require green building and retrofit training as part of the building contractors licensing process. The State of Michigan does not yet do this; green building practices can be taken as an elective component of the state’s required 60-hour pre-license
  8. 8. training program, but they are not required. This is an example of a change that could be made with little to no cost. Other employment sectors where State of Michigan licensing is required, where green job education could be integrated, include community planners, forestry professionals, landscape architects and interior designers. Essential to integrating green training into existing workforce programs is the formation of green-collar job training partnerships with a variety of stakeholders. These partnerships are mandatory for a city to position itself to access state and federal funding streams. Employers and business organizations can begin the process by identifying weaknesses in the labor market, as well as helping to design training curricula based on real-world workforce needs. This partnership should also be focused at a sector or individual industry level, in order to use resources most efficiently. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Michigan has implemented a system of Michigan Skills Alliances. Built upon the foundation of Michigan Regional Skills Alliances, Michigan Skills Alliances allow employers to directly give crucial input to educators and community partners that will help shape and coordinate solutions to specific industry or regional workforce needs. By providing employers a forum to directly communicate their workforce needs, Michigan Skills Alliances are catalyzing partnerships that better address the requirements of the business community. To further align with workforce demands, Michigan Skills Alliances are either geographically- or industry-based to effectively target the needs of employers. (Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth) The educational system is a crucial piece of the green collar workforce training network. Community colleges are quickly becoming the central focus of workforce training activity. Colleges need to be part of the partnerships established to identify needed skills and design curricula to meet those needs. Beyond training through coursework and degree programs, colleges provide needed career guidance and other support services. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) In Michigan, the Michigan Community College Association operates the Michigan New Jobs Training Program. If a business is locating a facility or expanding operations in the state, the Michigan New Jobs Training Program can provide flexible funding to meet a variety of training and employee development needs for those new positions. Funds to cover the costs of training are attained through community colleges issuing debt or self-funding. The debt is then repaid to the college through a diversion of withholding taxes generated by the wages earned by the new employees. (Michigan Community College Association) Michigan has also invested over $60 million in eighteen Technical Education Centers (M-TEC) within community colleges around the state. These centers provide a comprehensive array of standardized and customized training, workforce development programs and services to private businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals. (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)
  9. 9. In 2007, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced the creation of the No Worker Left Behind program, which would provide up to $10,000 for any unemployed or underemployed worker willing to study towards a degree or certificate leading to an in‐demand job in Michigan. Outcomes for the first 18 months have been impressive: over 62,000 people enrolled in the program; 55% completed their training in the 18 months, and another 29% were still in training; of those who completed training, 72% either found a new job or were able to advance in a job they already had. No Worker Left Behind has been funded by a mixture of federal sources, including an infusion from the ARRA. (Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth) Many colleges are even driving market demand; more than 600 higher education institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a formal pledge that includes: developing a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality, completing a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions, establishing a policy requiring that all new campus construction be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard or its equivalent, beginning to purchase or produce at least 15 percent of the institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources, and other goals. (Feldbaum & States) New York City is taking green job training a step further by integrating it into career and technical high schools, including retrofit and building efficiency programs. The City also operates a Department of Youth and Community Development to run several training, workforce development and employment placement programs for New Yorkers between the ages of 14 and 21. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) While the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education does include many career training pathways that could be considered part of the green economy, there is no evidence that specific green job skills training programs are being incorporated into the high school curriculum. (Michigan Department of Education) For many Americans, the path to a well-paying green job doesn’t begin with a training program at a local community college. Many people face a number of barriers to employment and training that need to be overcome. If it is a goal for a state or city to extend green collar workforce development to disadvantaged and impoverished members of the community, then a variety of comprehensive job readiness services need to be incorporated into the overall workforce development plan. This must often include outreach programs to find the disconnected workers in need of aid, as well as long-term case management to guide participants through various levels of the development programs. An effective pre-employment and job readiness program should provide: adult basic education in reading
  10. 10. and math, sustainability and environmental awareness training, a centralized information center for job seekers, program alignment with overall green initiatives, neighborhood place-based emphasis and “soft skills” training and “wraparound” services. These last two items can include readiness lessons in personal etiquette and interview skills, and things like child care and transportation subsidies. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Documenting Success and Building Political Support “W hat this report cannot provide is political will.” (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) Support for ambitious environmental goals, public investment, and comprehensive green collar workforce development must come from all levels of public leadership if it is to be successful in the long term. Every case study in the literature studied for this report contains somewhere a commitment by mayors, governors and city councils to make the choice to invest in building a greener economy – and to invest in developing the workforce to do so. One of the keys to leveraging political support is the ability to document and quantify a program’s achievement. What partnerships have been built among stakeholders? What policy goals have been reached as a result of green collar jobs programs? How many jobs have been created or retained? How many people are participating in job training programs, and what is the result of their training? What funding sources have been secured? The answers to these questions can help to track a program’s progress and measure its success. (The Apollo Alliance and Green For All, 2008) This is yet another reason why it is most effective to integrate green collar training initiatives into existing programs – the data and resources needed to track the program are already in place, and political leaders are already familiar with how the program operates. This is an area with particular shortcomings in Michigan, as well as other locations. The very nature of sector-based workforce development creates controversy between opposing political parties. Strict advocates of the “free market” insist that government should have no role in choosing “winners and losers”, and that direct investment and regulation by governments can only restrict private enterprise. There is some validity in the underlying principle of this argument; however it is often taken far into the extreme in order to gain political capital with an increasingly divided electorate. Governments should create a tax and regulatory environment that is fair for all businesses to compete, but at the same time there is a responsibility of government to put its citizens in the best position to
  11. 11. compete with workers across the country and around the world. The New York City Green Collar Jobs Roadmap was created from a series of working groups and roundtable meetings between many different stakeholders. Perhaps one of the most important groups to participate was the political strategy working group, which provided guidance on how to move the green collar jobs workforce development agenda through legislative and political channels. (Cha & Dafoe, 2009) Conclusions A merica’s economy is an ever-changing, complex organism, competing more today than ever in a global economy that no longer looks to the United States to lead the way. It is up to the leaders in our business communities, cities, states and in Washington to adapt to the challenges of the 21st Century. After World War II, the United States was in a unique position to rise up as the global economic powerhouse many of us are accustomed to. Low-skill, high-wage industrial jobs built an affluent middle class unparalleled anywhere in the world. Today those jobs are either gone or vanishing quickly, and what develops in their place will determine the future of the American middle class. The underlying theme to green collar workforce development is sustainability. In order to make American cities more environmentally sustainable, new green industries must be nurtured and developed to meet the challenges of future energy and environmental demands. And at the same time, there is an opportunity for the jobs themselves to be sustainable – good-paying, career track jobs with opportunity for advancement. Ambitious goals must come from the top – and citizens should demand that they do, or else elect leaders who can provide that ambition. Green initiatives to pursue those goals can be integrated into existing structures for workforce and economic development. Standards can be raised to ensure that public investment is rewarded with high-quality jobs in return. Progress can be measured and documented in order to secure further support and investment. There is evidence of success, but the process is going to take longer than that of our next campaign and election cycle. It is ultimately up to the people to choose and shape their own future.
  12. 12. Works Cited Cha, J. M., & Dafoe, J. (2009). New York City Green-Collar Jobs Roadmap. Washington D.C.: Center for American Progress. Chicago, City of. (n.d.). City Hall Rooftop Garden. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Chicago Department of Environment: 536889314&contentType=COC_EDITORIAL&topChannelName=Dept&entityName=Environment&dep tMainCategoryOID=-536887205 Feldbaum, M., & States, H. Going Green: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in Building a Sustainable Future and Green Workforce. National Council for Workforce Education. Ligot-Gordon, D., Oldmixon, S. L., Woolsey, L., & Simon, M. (2006). State Sector Strategies: Regional Solutions to Worker and Employer Needs. Washington D.C.: National Governors Association - Center for Best Practices. Michigan Community College Association. (n.d.). Michigan New Jobs Training Program. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Michigan Community College Association: Michigan Department of Education. (n.d.). Office of Career and Technical Education. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. (n.d.). MiRSA - Michigan Regional Skills Alliances. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. (n.d.). No Worker Left Behind. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. (n.d.). State Facility Energy Efficiency. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from,1607,7-154- 25676_25689_33337---,00.html
  13. 13. Michigan Economic Development Corporation. (n.d.). Michigan Workforce Development | The Michigan Advantage. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Michigan Advantage: North Carolina Solar Center. (n.d.). Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE): Pew Center on Global Climate Change. (n.d.). Renewable & Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Pew Center on Global Climate Change: The Apollo Alliance and Green For All. (2008). Green Collar Jobs in America's Cities. US Department of Energy. (n.d.). Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program: State and Local Grant Allocation. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: