Thursday, February 5, 2009


"As we face severe economic, energy and climate crises, it is imperative that investments in renewable energy, mass transit, fuel-efficient vehicles, smart grid and energy efficiency be a major part of our economic recovery. Making a down payment on the green economy will simultaneously create good jos, move America toward energy independence and drive immediate action to combat global warming."

Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference

I was talking with a colleague in-between sessions and we observed how passionate and enthused everyone seemed to be at the conference. Breakouts were packed and there was a sense of destiny -- the stimulus, of course, but more than that. People had a mission and a cause.

We contrasted these feelings with the more sober, technical, and bureaucratic mentality that frequently dominates meetings of those engaged in workforce and education and skills enhancement -- the folks we usually hang out with. That's not to say they aren't a crowd.

Workforce people know four things that curb their enthusiasm. First, the best training occurs when you train people for real jobs, not aspirations. Graduation is getting a job, not a certificate. Second, hiring and job quality standards and targets are absolutely necessary; businesses -- even with public investments -- will not do the right thing unless pushed by policy or market pressure. Third, low literacy levels makes moving up challenging for people on the job. And fourth, working with the current fragmented public workforce system(s)frequently frustrates innovation, partnerships, and ambitious outcomes.

Many green jobs folks have yet to confront these challenges on a regular basis. They are still driven by movement euphoria and sense of victory. I'm glad they feel that way. I'm convinced that the green jobs frame is the way to reinvigorate and redirect how we do economic and workforce development. I just wonder whether anyone will get a real job -- and when.

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