SIMEON GANT – Rethinking The Burgeoning Green Economy

sac-button-SimeonOPINION – When I began my research developing the Green Tech education program the term green jobs was an anomaly. The obvious question is, ‘What’s the difference between a regular job and a green job?’

Since its inception in 2009, Green Tech set out to define and spread the word of what a green job is. We are imploring people, during the worst economic downturn of this generation, to think outside the norm, be open, creative and innovative in developing a career.

As part of a hands-on solar training program, we enlightened dozens of high school and college students about considering a green job or better yet, a career that considers reducing human impact on the environment.

Kanisha Bristow, an engineering student at Sac State University is interested in a traditional automotive field. However, on the day of the Solar Suitcase project she told the media, “The way our country is moving toward solar and renewable energy, I’m giving that a second thought.”

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor injected $150 million into a program it dubbed Pathways out of Poverty. It provides at-risk youth with skills needed to enter the green job market, focusing on the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

The training programs focus on teaching basic literacy and job readiness skills. Some of the programs also provide supportive assistance with childcare and transportation to overcome barriers to employment.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill, authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), to extend more than $100 million for California’s Career Technical Pathway Program.

When you add the billions of dollars moving around the state to implement AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act; a mandate requiring private corporations to participate in reducing greenhouse gases, Ms. Bristow is spot on, the country is going green.

The goal is to reduce human impact on our environment and live healthier by, reducing Co2 emissions, pollution and greenhouse gases caused by oil extraction and burning coal, reconsidering travel and transportation patterns, eating healthier, reduce our energy usage, save money, build better buildings, re-think and redevelop our entire infrastructure, develop workforce skills, to not only be employable, but to develop a self-sufficiency skill set for a more prosperous, sustainable quality of life.

All of this requiring significant employment shifts in manufacturing, construction trades, transportation, public utilities and ecosystem management. These Green Jobs contribute to an environmental breakthrough known as the Green Economy.

Sustainable living and the Green Economy considers human health and environmental health for a higher quality of life. Reducing greenhouse gases, Co2 emissions, and pollution, degradation to our land and food, will take human elbow grease — new jobs with new purpose.

When we started Green Tech as a community-based, non-profit organization, we realized it is our youth that will lead this trek. And so it is our youth we must train and prepare for this burgeoning Green Economy. It will require a shift in our education delivery, emphasizing value in Career Technical Education. Green Tech is committed to giving our youth an Eco Advantage, because these aren’t just jobs. These are Green Jobs.
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By Simeon Gant

Simeon Gant is a government relations and public affairs consultant. He is the Executive Director of Green Technical Education and Employment (Green Tech). The community-based, non-profit organization provides career technical education services, to youth, emphasizing clean energy, energy efficiency and introduction to environmental studies. For more information, visit www.greentechedu.org.