Monday, March 23, 2009

Green Jobs Fever

"The debate over green jobs comes down to, in part, a philosophical one over whether the government should lead the march toward renewables or let the free market lead itself as green energy becomes an economically viable alternative to traditional sources."

Liz Wolgemuth, "The Truth About All Those Green Jobs," U.S.News & World Report, April 2009.

This is the big debate about the scale and timing of green jobs and the green economy. It's difficult to see private-sector led green jobs without the economy recovering and oil prices returning to their high levels of just last summer. So, there's room for major public sector investment in the short-run if you see the need for a green economy and a role for government in seeding new industries.

At a more micro level, green jobs fever runs up against three lessons from workforce training during the past decade:

1) Train people for jobs that exist
2) Place people in better jobs for better job retention
3) Train people for jobs that go somewhere

A fourth, related lesson, is that linking workforce and economic development (new investments for job creation) is incredibly difficult to do if workers need considerable advance training.

These are not insurmountable challenges. There are many examples to learn from. The problem is that the stimulus/recovery is pushing everyone towards quick time schedules, shovel-ready, and business as usual.

I'm hoping that a year from now we don't have stories of training certificates without jobs and dead end jobs that stop when the gov money dries up.

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