Eco-friendly growth and what it means for green jobs

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By HANNAH WEST

There’s been no shortage of talk about eco-friendly jobs and what they mean for the economy. Opportunities are springing up in countless sectors and fields: renewable energy, technology, engineering, utilities, air pollution control, politics, construction, product distribution… the list goes on. Some believe that the rise of green industries, especially solar and wind power production, are a threat to jobs attached to the fossil fuel industry. Others hold that the rise of eco-friendly jobs can only be good for the economy and overall job growth.

Home Improvement Leads explains why eco-friendly industries are growing so fast and why the rise of green-collar workers will make for a healthy, diverse, and efficient workforce.

The growth of eco-friendly industries 

Green consumers and businesses used to be on the fringes of the mainstream economy. But in the past several years, positive public sentiment about environmental friendliness and supportive policies have led countless businesses to get on board. While some consider going green a way to keep, please, and accrue customers, many business see it more strategically as an opportunity to improve their brand image, increase revenue, and even cut costs in the long run.

Yet with the popularity of green products and services, advertisers have learned that claiming to be green helps build trust with consumers and business partners—even if it means stretching the truth. However, companies that are genuinely green will not consider each positive change as just a bullet on their annual reports, but one of many steps toward being a sustainable company with a minimal carbon footprint. The shift to a more green economy is cascading, as more and more companies realize this. 

The rise of the Green Collar workforce

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a green job as any position “producing goods or providing services benefiting the environment or conserving natural resources.” Renewable energy installations are typically a catalyst for green job growth. In 2015, the solar industry in the U.S. boasted 209,000 solar workers and was creating jobs 12 times faster than the overall economy. Even though solar still has plenty of room to grow both in magnitude and in terms of diversity, the solar workforce “reflects greater diversity than many industry sectors,” according to the National Solar Jobs Census. Solar also offers competitive living wages.

National and state job programs as well as community college programs have helped recruit many young people into green industries. The Obama administration’s Pathways out of Poverty (POP) program trains impoverished individuals to enter the green workforce, focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Government-led green jobs initiatives in the U.S. are part of a global movement to train the workforce for the needs of the green economy.

Fast-growing green job fields

Students looking to the future, adults in the workforce looking to make a transition, and environmental advocates alike probably want to know which green fields are booming most rapidly. Fields with healthy job prospects include renewable energy, water management, green construction, and, it’s safe to say, any green STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field. There are plenty of STEM jobs available, but not enough qualified employees to fill them in the U.S. Where the green agenda intersects with the tech world is a sweet spot for job seekers.

The green job boom is still fresh and very much in process, but attempts to quantify the volume and trends vary widely based on what different entities consider to be a “green” job. Therefore, tracking green job growth is still a challenge, but it’s clear that eco-friendly industries are growing, and there are new shoes to fill.

Thanks to Hannah and Home Improvement Leads for your contribution to the Leaders in Energy blog. Here are some other resources on green jobs that may be of interest to our readers:

We also have regular events on the topic of green jobs.

Our next Green Jobs event is scheduled for August 2017.

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