Investing in Our People: Green Jobs in Santa Fe
There's an exciting new movement cropping up in Santa Fe, encompassing all arenas of the community. Community college students, construction workers, and youth mentors are all rallying together to create the infrastructure for clean energy and efficiency in the city. It's a comprehensive program that combines the efforts of three separate groups, illustrating that when it comes to Green Jobs, it's all hands on deck.
Though differing in their approach, these groups share a core belief:For a brighter and more prosperous future, we need Green Jobs in our communities. Green Jobs employ people in competitive, newindustries such as wind, biomass, solar, green building, and energy efficiency.Green Jobs will create an economic engine, generating thousands ofgood paying, sustainable jobs,stimulating the New Mexico economy, andproviding access to clean, domestic energy that reduces our carbon footprint. And our state shows huge potential for Green Jobs: New Mexico is ranked 2nd in the nation in solar potential and 12th in wind potential. Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe YouthWorks, and Los Amigos Weatherization Program are seizing this vital opportunity, and are teaming up to bring Green Jobs to Santa Fe.
The Sustainable Technologies Center at Santa Fe Community College was created with the mission of providing the workforce for an emerging industry.According to Lou Schreiber, Director of Workforce Development at the College, SFCC is poised to offer these programs because "we have the resources provided in a college environment, a knowledgeable community who support us on a variety of levels, and we have business opportunities right here in Santa Fe". The College offers an environmental technology certificate, energy rater training, as well as classes in green building, biomass, solar hot water systems, sustainability and water issues. A new Advanced Technologies Center is scheduled to break ground in May 2009, which would further develop Green Jobs offerings: more classes, a solar energy program, and space for testing and deployment of technologies. With this building, says Schreiber, "students will have chance to work directly with inventors and entrepreneurs and green business people in new technologies.
Meanwhile at Los Amigos, a state-funded Weatherization Assistance Program based in Santa Fe, the mission revolves around "assisting and serving the elderly, low-income, disabled, and disadvantaged throughout Northern New Mexico," offering services such as weatherization, energy audits, public education, and installation and repair of heating equipment. According to Anthony Roybal, Executive Director of the Los Amigos, "the need for Green Jobs services is massive and will open a lot of jobs". And Los Amigos is upping the ante within their program: the group has been tasked with increasingly ambitious goals, and will be aiming to weatherize two hundred homes next year. Their approach is to show legislators that this work has significant payback for homeowners.
According to Youth Development Coordinator, Vincent Tapia at Santa Fe YouthWorks, the goal is looking after the "health and future of our children and of our earth." One YouthWorks project in particular seeks to establish Santa Fe as a leader in sustainability and workforce development, by creating a Green Collar Jobs Apprentice Program. For this initiative, Santa Fe YouthWorks, Santa Fe Community College, Los Amigos, and several other groups have united to provide high-risk teens with in-class and on-the-job training in Green Jobs services. Last month the City Council approved $160,000 funding for this program, which will cover the costs of training 35 to 40 workers in the coming year. Says Melynn Schuyler, Executive Director at YouthWorks, this project will provide "accessible, stable work that is good for workers, good for businesses,good for the community, and the environment… and represents one of the largest investments in the promotion of green collar jobs of any city in the United States".
But these three groups share another thing in common: the belief that America's greatest asset is its people, and that this resource can help solve the problems that define our generation: job loss, a depressed economy, climate change, and a failing education system. Tapia of YouthWorks believes that, "we need to put more money in our education system and our jobs." At Los Amigos, Roybal feels that our government needs to partake in this new energy economy, by creating incentives for this kind of work. And at Santa Fe Community College, Schreiber sees the need to have an "environment that encourages industries to come here and grow" and believes that one way of doing this is having the government invest in training programs. Creating green jobs training programs in New Mexico would set our state as a forerunner in the clean technology industry, generating wealth and thousands of jobs.
As our country shifts leadership, we have the opportunity to change political will and create bold improvements. President-elect Obama has stated that he plans to create five million jobs in the clean energy sector, giving $150 billion for green jobs and alternative energy over the next ten years. He's also expressed this work is on the top of his agenda, stating "there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy ... That's going to be my Number One priority when I get into office."
New Mexico has an incredible opportunity to position us at the crest of the wave of the new energy economy, and in doing so, encourage the rest of the nation to address these critical issues. Therefore, New Mexico needs to invest in our people and our educational system, training young people for the jobs of the future. Programs such as these need more support and broader extension. Let's build a brighter future with Green Jobs in New Mexico