Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chasing Green

"Without clear leadership and direction from state and local policymakers and officials, and without a willingness to take advantage of the unique opportunities that are available in this period, workers with less experience and lower skills are likely to find themselves at the end of a very long queue of more experienced job-seekers, unable to move ahead even when the economy recovers."

Karen Martinson,"Ensuring Low-Income Workers Benefit from Green Jobs," Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, August 10, 2009.

Of course,the topic is green jobs. There is yet another set of estimates,0 to 1.7 million jobs, and estimates of total direct green investment and potential training dollars amounting to about $130 billion. This article is a very concise, useful restatement about the challenges for low-income, low-skilled job seekers face in accessing these jobs, assumming these jobs come to fruition.

The sensible advice is for smart education and training -- including community college student financing, targeted more at the middle-skill jobs. But this doesn't really address the long-line of recently employed who might go after these jobs.

It seems to me that there are three scenarios in which this training approach would work:

1) There really are skill gaps for some of the new green jobs and low-income job seekers get these skills first.

2) The economic recovery is in full swing when low-income job seekers actually get relevant certificates, green jobs exist, and green jobs are viewed as less attactive by competitors -- hence low-income job seekers get the jobs.

3) A third approach is that local and state governments put in place or better utilize first source hiring goals or other policy mechanisms that require or target hiring. Most everyone has punted on this approach to date, from the top down.

Which scenario seems most plausible? Is there another approach?

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