The Future of Green Collar Jobs

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No matter where we go or what we’re doing, it seems that the word ‘green’ gets brought up in our conversations. From green cleaning to green lighting and even green transportation, green has become the color representing sustainability. Green collar jobs are literally the jobs of the future.

Identifying Green Collar Jobs

The BLS1 defines green jobs by dividing them into two categories: output approach and process approach. The output approach identifies those business entities that produce green goods and services. Yet, the output approach doesn’t cover activities and jobs that have a positive impact on the environment even if the product or service isn’t green. This aspect is actually covered by the process approach, which identifies those businesses that use green processes to manufacture or produce goods and services. The process approach can be applied to any industry.

Why are green collar jobs so important?

One major aspect of today’s building processes that is largely influencing the creation and demand of green collar jobs is weatherization. Weatherization is the process in which a building is modified in order to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. It was in 2009 that President Obama agreed to invest billions into weatherization. With such substantial investments making their way into the American economy, we are now seeing the Department of Energy develop audit programs, weatherization assistance development and maintenance, state evaluation assistance, and lead-safe work practices.

What industries nurture green collar jobs?

Metal fabrication is one of the primary industries that will be positively affected by the “green boom” in this country. As the demand for energy is rising drastically, energy is increasingly being retrieved from sources that don’t pollute the environment, such as the sun (solar), wind/water or natural gas. Clean energy industries all require massive amounts of metal for their structures, be it for solar panels, wind and water turbines or natural gas pipe lines. This is great news for welders and pipefitters, whose skills will likely be highly sought after in the upcoming years.

The HVAC industry is another field that will see an increase in green collar jobs. As government institutions all across the United States ramp up their green construction and weatherization projects, HVAC professionals will be needed to transform older buildings into ones that are more environmentally friendly. In addition, construction workers building new homes will be in need of contractors with HVAC skills who have expertise in green heating and cooling practices.

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What is the outlook for these green collar jobs?

Skilled workers in metal fabrication are extremely versatile as they can apply their knowledge and skills in a wide variety of industries2. The uptick in construction of clean energy structures like natural gas pipelines or solar panels will probably see a wave of welders and metal fabricators spilling over from less prosperous industries like the automotive industry. The BLS reports that the median annual salary3 for those working in metal fabrication is $36,300, which is slightly above the median salary for all occupations and well above other production occupations. For those who work in green industries, however, salaries might be even higher: jobs in ethanol manufacturing, for example, are expected to have great benefits and wages, with 45% of industry workers making between $40,000 and $75,000 annually, and 45% earning more than $75,000.

Similarly, the HVAC industry has an excellent future. According to the VP of marketing and product development at Heat Controller Inc., Jerry Troke, “the sky is the limit in this [HVAC] industry.” Regardless of whether you have years of training or none at all, the HVAC industry is easy to get into. Depending on the type of experience and training that you choose to pursue, you can find yourself moving up the ladder pretty quickly. The employment outlook for HVAC technicians4 is fantastic, with a 21% increase from 2012-2022, which is much faster than average. While the median salary is a substantial $43,640, only an associate’s degree or a completed apprenticeship is needed to enter the labor market.

There’s no doubt that green collar jobs will play a big part in our future. Consequently, you need to consider all the advantages you’ll gain from securing a green collar job, with the most important being long-term success. The first step to starting a bright green career is comprehensive training in fields that are seeking professionals with green expertise.  A professional welder training program or an HVAC/R training program allows you to learn about and practice green technology/techniques in metal fabrication and HVAC. With such thorough training and experience, you’ll have the best chances to land a promising green collar job.

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