As Obama inches toward implementing his job creation schemes, we hear a lot about the jobs that will be created through federally supported “green” initiatives, including those in retro-fitting and weatherizing buildings. Folks who can afford it can already Google their way to a host of ostensible eco-opportunities: short-term training programs at community colleges and trade schools, or the purchase of their own, franchised “Energy Consultant” businesses. Some are doubtless more promising than others, but these seem to be exactly what the White House has in mind: quick fixes with a limited educational component.
But like previous federal efforts at tech-sector job creation–in computing during the 1960s, or nano-manufacturing more recently–the training of such green technicians seems likely to leave poorer Americans out of the best and most exciting technical jobs. Why not supply real federal money instead to full-fledged higher-ed opportunities, to draw more un- or under-employed Americans into technology research, design and planning positions rather than into installation or repair jobs? Sounds too long term, for wage-earners and the environment? Then pay people to go to school and work part-time, or make work on real buildings a regular part of environmental science and engineering curricula. We could rethink our occupational categories, too….picture the manual laborer as someone who contributes to technological innovation, or the engineer as someone who gets paid well to work in her community. Why not form community- or workplace-based “Green Teams” that integrate people of different skill levels, bringing an apprenticeship model to green design and implementation?…I’d love to know: Anything like this already happening out there?