Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green Clawbacks

"Additionally, the Secretaries of Energy, Education, and Labor announced collaboration to make it a major priority to institutionalize cross-agency communication about private sector jobs created as a result of federal action. Through these efforts, jobs created will be connected to training programs and career pathways that can provide transitions for adults between employment and for students from high school to post secondary education and into careers."

MiddleClass Task Force, the Vice President of the United States, "Middle Class Task Force Announces Agency Partnership to Build a Strong Middle Class Through a Green Economy," May 27, 2009.

Communication is good. And you couldn't ask for a better articulation of career pathways, good jobs, credentials, etc. But where are the jobs? A few random example estimates from the world of weatherization and energy efficiency: 3-400 jobs in Washington State, several hundred in Maryland, and 30 or so for a major provider in Philadelphia that will be doubling its work. That's good but very small, and hardly a path to the middle class. Given the number of unemployed construction workers of different types, it's hard to imagine that we'll need much training in the short run, especially for young people or longer-term unemployed. And if you look closely, most of this training is on-the-job training and upgrade training for certifications.

But here comes the training dollars, not the jobs. Maybe this will work out in the longer run as the economy recovers, laid-off construction workers go back to work, and we figure out how to retrofit all the buildings in cities. Timing is everything.

This all sounds a bit like traditional smokestack chasing in the economic development world -- except now in the cause of saving the world from global warming and making everybody middle class. A policy innovation to take address the lack of good job creation in the economic development world is called the clawback. Simply, companies have to pay back the public for lack of performance.

Maybe we need some green clawbacks on all the government promises for jobs, energy reductions, green careers, and opportunities to become (or stay) middle class.

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