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The “Green Gold Rush!” Here comes the green jobs!

By Andrew Hudson
Denver Jobs Examiner

During mid-summer, our nation’s gas prices soared to $4 per-gallon which led to a wide-spread discussion about a “Green Gold Rush” through the creation of new green industries to combat our country’s reliance on foreign oil.

During mid-summer, our nation’s gas prices soared to $4 per-gallon which led to a wide-spread discussion about a “Green Gold Rush” through the creation of new green industries to combat our country’s reliance on foreign oil.

According to a recent interview with Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a sophisticated, well-crafted energy policy “… will sharpen our competitiveness by reducing our energy costs, dramatically reduce our national debt, stimulate our economy far more effectively than tax cuts by putting conservation savings in the hands of every American, and be the engine for creating millions of green-collar jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Maritza Schäfer is the Communications Director for the green jobs advocacy organization Green for All ( and points out that the excitement of a new green economy is that the majority of green jobs are local jobs. 

“Much of the work we have to do to green our economy involves transforming the places that we live and work and the way we get around,” Schäfer says. “These jobs are difficult or impossible to offshore. For instance, you can't pick up a house, send it to China to have solar panels installed, and have it shipped back. In addition, one of the major sources of manufacturing jobs -- a sector that has been extensively off-shored -- are components parts for wind towers and turbines. Because of their size and related high transportation costs, they are most cost-effectively produced as near as possible to wind-farm sites. Cities and communities should begin thinking now about ways their green strategies can also create local jobs.”

What exactly is a green-collar job and what are the green industries workers should be examining?

Mike Hall is president of Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. (, a leading designer and installer of residential, commercial and public sector solar electric systems.  He defines “green industry,” as any business selling a product or service that contributes to educating and/or supporting the protection of the environment and health of the world’s growing population.  He adds that green-collar jobs commonly fall into specific areas: sustainable construction/building, renewable energy (i.e., solar, wind, bio-mass, geo-thermal, etc.), non-profit, education, nutrition and health.

“Solar is the main industry that will propel green jobs in America, and wind is probably second,” Hall says. “Solar traditionally provides more jobs per watt of energy than any other form of energy currently available. The industry requires a greater number of staff in all areas, from general construction and installation, to advertising to business development and more. Because the industry is growing at a tremendous rate, the demand for labor across all professions is increasing exponentially.”

Schäfer points out that green-collar workers are installing solar panels, retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient, constructing transit lines, refining waste oil into biodiesel, erecting wind farms, repairing hybrid cars, building green rooftops and planting trees among other things. “There are already many green-collar jobs in America. But there could be so many more if we focus our economic strategies on growing a green economy,” she says.

What types of skills are necessary for a green collar job?
Hall says that a common misconception is that true “green” jobs are reserved for engineers and researchers. “While research and development in the field is extremely important, there is a much wider variety of green-collar jobs available. Every company in the green industry needs the same basic positions filled as those in other industries, including sales, marketing, finance, information technology, human resources and legal.  Generally speaking, the same skills required for any other industry are necessary, but with a basic understanding of some of the core principles of being “green.””

Schäfer believes that while the green economy might demand workers with new skill sets, many existing jobs are easily transformed into careers in a clean energy economy.

“Some green-collar jobs -- say renewable energy technicians -- are brand new,” she points out. “But even more are existing jobs that are being transformed as industries transition to a clean energy economy: computer control operators who can cut steel for wind towers as well as for submarines; or mechanics who can fix an electric engine as well as an internal combustion engine.”

Where do you find a green-collar job?
Borrego’s Hall says traditional employment directories and other job-hunting tools are now adding “green” job categories, and recruiters are starting to focus on helping companies find well-qualified candidates. He also points out that blogs and online social networking are great ways to find green-collar jobs.

“In addition, higher education institutions are starting to add “green-collar” job training and courses to their curriculums. Job applicants equipped with a degree that lends itself to the green space is a great way to stand out among other job seekers.” 

Terra Wellington, author of the the upcoming St. Martin's Press book The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green (, says that companies are becoming more savvy in their search for employees with green-collar skills.  “The more overtly defined green collar jobs will actually list some of these keywords in their job description: environment, sustainable or sustainability, energy, renewable, organic,” she says.  “Currently, there would be something about the job that is directly related to sustainability, improving our environment, or providing more renewable products and services.  Right now, it's easier to pick out "green-collar" jobs, but as the green economy picks up the hope is that most green jobs will morph into everyday jobs for everyone.”

What types of opportunities are ripe for ‘green’ entrepreneurs?
With the ‘Green Gold Rush’ there is also a lot of discussion about green entrepreneurs who are developing products, services and industries to serve the new green economy.  New ‘green’ business tax incentives and low interest financing seem to spurring much of the conversation at the local and state levels.   

Akeena Solar  ( was launched in 2001 out of its founder's garage in California. Since then, Akeena has grown rapidly, and now has 12 offices in three states.   “We've seen many new installers arrive on the solar scene every year, and can expect more as electricity costs continue to rise and energy independence becomes a common theme in our economy,” says Erik Bowman, regional sales manager at Akeena Solar’s Colorado office.

“The coming year will be very exciting for anyone looking at green entrepreneurial opportunities. Nationwide we have a president-elect who has announced he is planning to invest heavily in the clean-tech sector and we have state governments like Colorado's who are implementing additional initiatives to spur the growth of green companies."

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