Monday, November 10, 2008

Is the New Color of Success.... Green?

When this nation was in it's formative stages, many people were struggling with low wages, few jobs and limited opportunities. "Go West, young man," advised many.

So, thousands of people headed West, seeking their fortune and new lives.

Now, I'm about to offer the same advice. Want better wages, a new and growing career and unlimited oportunities?

Go green, ladies and gentlemen, go green.

If a job in any way, shape or form has to do with energy and the environment, grab it. Whether you're in construction, engineering, manufacturing or even advertising and marketing, green is where it is at.

President-elect Barak Obama has called for the government to help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the 10 years “to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. That means thousands of jobs will be created as out-of-work construction and manufacturing workers are put to work retrofitting energy inefficient infrastructures, and thousands more jobs will be needed to support them -- everything from environmental engineers to truckers.

According to a U.S. Conference of Mayors report, there are currently about 750,000 green jobs in the U.S., but that is estimated to grow to 42 million in the next 30 years.

Last week I interviewed Van Jones, author of the new book, "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems."

Jones is sort of a rock star in the environmental world, and has gained a lot of support for putting people to work and saving the planet at the same time. What he says makes a lot of sense, but rather the $350 billion he believes should be injected to jump start the economy and begin saving the planet will become a reality is anyone's guess.

Still, Jones has received a lot of support from some key players, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Google's Larry Brilliant, Sen. Tom Daschle, Arianna Huffington and (drum roll, please) Al Gore.

Jones already has convinced local governments of the viability of green collar jobs, getting public funds in California for training low-income youth in industries such as renewable energy, organic food and green construction. His non-profit organization, Green For All, hopes to raise at least $1 billion in federal funding within four years for green-collar programs and put thousands of Americans to work, much as the New Deal did after the Depression of the 1930s.

“Earlier this year, we stimulated the economy in China -- not at home -- when everyone went out and bought flat-screen televisions with their economic stimulus checks," Jones said. "Then, we bailed out the banks, not the people, with the financial rescue plan. We swung twice and missed. Now it’s time the government invested in this economy and jobs and the infrastructure. It’s the green New Deal.”

If you're thinking your industry is headed for tougher times, if you believe that your career needs to be revamped or if you're just trying to come up with some new job plans, here are some things to consider:

1. Green is good. More consumers are becoming supportive of efforts to save the planet and use more energy efficient practices. Helping your employer move in this direction -- either by making "green" proposals, researching green initiatives or volunteering to take on more green projects at work can help you not only get experience in this area, but make you more valuable to your employer.

2. Join green teams. Look for professional organizations that are involved in developing green initiatives and find ways to partner with them and learn. Green work is coming in a big way, and those who are ahead of the learning curve will be the most valuable. Jones told me that he believes any college student should at least get a minor in environmental sciences. Try and cross-train in departments that are taking on green projects, or even attend green-focused seminars -- on your own time if needed.

3. Network. Get to know those in your community who will be decision-makers in retrofitting or rehabbing local structures to make them more energy efficient, and connect with environmental educators, engineers, sustainable farmers, etc., to understand how you can fit into this new movement.

Jones told me that the Sunbelt states and desert areas can be the Saudi Arabia of solar energy, while the wide-open Plains states can be the Saudi Arabia of wind power. Now is the time to make sure you're in on the next new frontier of the American economy.

What are some other ideas to position yourself for the changes coming to the American workplace?


Anonymous said...

You've given me a lot to think about with this post. I am concerned about the environment. I'm also worried about my job. I mean, who isn't? If there really is going to be that much money in green energy and technology, then I need to figure out how I can be a part of that. Thanks for the information.

Anita said...

Great! Let me know what happens...I'd be interested to hear if you're able to find something that interests you.
Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Green jobs really do show a lot of promise. If possible, it might worthwhile to return to school and re-learn how to do your jobs in a green way (a lot of universities are starting offer degree and certification programs for this).

Anita said...

Excellent suggestion! Especially as a lot of people are sort of
"between jobs" right now and this gives them a real focus for returning to school.