Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green Dollars?

"These grants also offer an opportunity to demonstrate how partnerships between the public workforce system and other public and private systems, including labor-management partnerships, education institutions, community and faith-based organizations, and research institutions can meet the workforce needs of the energy efficiency and renewal energy sectors and other industry sectors."

Douglas F. Small, Deputy Assistant Secretary, "Training and Employment Notice, American Recovery and Reinvest Act of 2009 -- Competitive Grants for Green Job Training," May 15, 2009.

Here we go. One thing that we've learned during the past 15 years is that we should train people for jobs that exist. In fact, the best of training partnerships train people for specific jobs that businesses have pledged. A number of years ago I remember Russ Tershy of CET saying that graduation from their program involved getting a job not a certifcate. Unfortunately, there is little mention or emphasis on skill or labor shortages or high demand occupations in this early guidance letter, no surprise given the recession. Instead we have reference to "workforce needs."

We've also learned that it's very challenging to train people for jobs that might exist, as in the energy efficiency world. We can be fairly sure about increased jobs in low-income weatherization programs, but these increases will probably be less than expected and require mostly on-the-job training and short-term training. If a more robust policy framework is put in place that requires energy efficiency, we would then be better able to train for jobs with a higher likelihood of existing. But getting this timing right is quite difficult.

Maybe the economy will be recovering by the time this money hits the streets and the construction industry will be hiring. That would be great. Training dollars could be used for enhancing green skills in existing apprenticeships -- and building training capacity. Over time, new jobs would drive the training. That's the way it should work.

My worse fear is that we will end up training people for jobs that don't exist or throw training at economic dislocation as a short-term panacea. That would fulfill the critique of training and education that President Obama and others had only a year ago. Maybe the final RFP for these dollars will give more practical guidance on these issues. I hope so.

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