Button Up Your Green CollarButton Up Your Green Collar

Button Up Your Green Collar

You've heard of white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Now make room in your closet for the green collars. Green-collar jobs, including everything from construction workers on buildings that use environmentally sound designs and materials and organic farmers to solar-panel manufacturers, are driving the new energy economy. Researchers say that increases in research and development of renewable energy (like solar power and wind turbines), energy efficiency and carbon-emissions control will spur new economic activity and create more than 1 million new jobs. Including renewable energy and clean technology (technologies that contribute to a cleaner world), green is growing to be one of the hottest and fastest-growing market sectors in the U.S. Let's face it, by the time you hit the job market green employment will be plush, fertile ground.

Everyone's talking about the new energy economy, including the folks that run some of New Jersey's largest businesses-your potential future employers. During a recent energy summit in New Brunswick, companies like the utility PSE&G and New Jersey Natural Gas discussed programs to get tomorrow's workers interested in green-collar jobs. You can bet this will be a really big part of the New Jersey's Energy Master Plan, a blueprint for the state's most important energy issues going forward. "Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. But it is not simply an environmental challenge, it's also an opportunity to create jobs, to grow the economy and to build healthier communities in which families want to live and raise children," explains Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSE&G.

So what does this mean for you? In the short-term, you will start to see more and more opportunities to develop critical skills for the energy economy, through career academies in high schools, programs at community colleges and courses and majors at four-year colleges and universities. Green will also nourish the entrepreneur in you as small businesses form to serve all aspects of the energy economy and large businesses focus on innovative ways to reduce their own carbon footprint-the amount of global-warming stuff they're releasing into the environment.

In October, the city of Trenton launched a "Green Initiative" and along with it a pilot "Green Collars Career Program" to involve all kinds of companies in providing job training and climate-protection related jobs to Trenton residents. Sun Power (formerly PowerLight), with offices in Trenton, has committed $40,000 worth of training, curriculum development and project management assistance to the Youthbuild Institute at Isles, a community development organization. Youthbuild will expand its construction training to include the installation of solar panels, first at its location on Tucker Street, then on other properties in the city. "Green jobs show the public that climate protection is about growing the economy, while Greening America," Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer has said. State by state, city by city, town by town, student by student-everyone will become part of the green revolution. There may be a job in it for you.