What is a green career?


by Teri Fritsma

The answer is: It’s complicated.

A recent blog post by the Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. sums up where we are in our understanding of “green jobs”:

“The concept of green jobs still lacks concreteness and tangible examples…So how do we even begin to plan, train, and get people ready for this sector without having a strong sense of what green jobs actually are?”

It’s relatively easy to identify green economic activities, or even businesses that are engaged in them.  For example, a Washington State report outlines a useful way to define the green economy: any businesses engaged in activites that involve (1) energy efficiency; (2) renewable energy; (3) preventing or reducing pollution; or (4) mitigating or cleaning up pollution.

But what occupations (broad job titles) does this actually include?  Some occupations — like wind turbine technicians, which wouldn’t exist if not for green technology — are pretty easily dubbed “green.”  But others aren’t so simple.  For example, some construction helpers use green techniques (like building with recycled materials), but does that mean that construction helper is a green occupation?  Doubful, since not all construction firms use green practices, and since building just about anything can create waste or pollution.  Similarly, city bus drivers help people save gas by using public transportation.  Bus is driving a city bus really green?  Does it require “green” skills?

There’s no widely accepted definition or list right now.  But there is a lot of work being done to sort out these issues and come up with a clear, sensible definition of what careers are really green.  For example, as the authoritative national source for occupational information, O*NET is responding by creating a definition of green jobs that will be released soon.  For Minnesota-specific information, the latest issue of Minnesota Trends is devoted almost entirely to green.

The urgency for a list of green jobs is growing because of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which dedicates billions of dollars to create green jobs.  Watch ISPEAK for new developments as we’ll be following this issue closely over the coming months.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in finding a green career and want to explore your options, check out ISEEK’s green careers section for some ideas.

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