House Hearings: Green Jobs Offer Opportunity to Rebuild Middle Class
President Obama’s economic recovery plan sets aside $50 billion in grants and tax incentives to promote efficient and renewable energy. But the nation also must focus on training workers and rebuilding our manufacturing industries to take advantage of the growth in green jobs, experts told a congressional panel today.
Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance, told the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that potential for a clean energy economy offers huge opportunities to revive American manufacturing and rebuild the nation’s economy. But “what’s not evident is whether we have the human capital or the political will to ensure the jobs are American.”
We don’t make most of the systems involved in producing clean energy. Fully half of America’s existing wind turbines were manufactured overseas. And we rank fifth among countries that manufacture solar components, even though the solar cell was born in America.
The fact that other countries are prepared to deliver these products—and we are not—means that every new American bill creating demand for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency services actually creates new jobs overseas, even though we have a robust manufacturing infrastructure and a skilled workforce.
We have an incredible opportunity to strengthen and expand America’s middle class by boosting our clean energy manufacturing sector.
The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders working to create a clean energy revolution in America, has developed Make It In America: the Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), a series of policy recommendations aimed at revitalizing America’s manufacturing sector by investing significant federal funding in the domestic manufacture of clean energy components.
Ringo told the subcommittee the alliance recommendations include:
- Providing direct federal funding for clean energy manufacturers to retool their facilities and retrain their workers to develop and produce clean energy technologies.
- Attaching standards to funding and conditioning federal support to manufacturers on their ability to meet labor and domestic content standards.
- Increasing funding for the Green Jobs Act and directing funds administered under the act toward workforce and skill standards development for the clean energy manufacturing industries.
- Creating a Presidential Task Force on Clean Energy Manufacturing to bring together a range of federal agencies to make the manufacturing of clean energy systems and components a national priority.
Along those same lines, the AFL-CIO recently created the Center for Green Jobs, which will expand the research, training and policy work in support of good green jobs. At the same time, the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department is leading a national initiative joining their affiliates and 1,100 apprenticeship training centers with community organizations to train workers for the opportunities offered by new energy investment.
To ensure we have enough qualified workers to fill the green jobs, Kathy Krepcio, executive director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, told the panel that states and communities should build partnerships between employers and unions through “green energy advisory councils” with the leaders of companies, utilities and unions.
Employers can identify demand for certifications, hiring and recruitment policies, and specific occupations, as well as which jobs will draw from labor unions. Since labor unions and employers often provide significant amounts of training themselves, they can also provide needed guidance on key gaps that exist within the education and training system that need to be filled. This will assist states to build training systems that build upon and support employer and union-led efforts rather than coming into competition with them.
The bottom line, though, is that a green economy benefits all Americans, subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said.
We know that green jobs are real. We know that green jobs enhance environmental quality, while creating good jobs right here at home. And we know that a green economy will transform this country and the world.