Clean energy innovations have the power to generate job growth in the U.S., but not without far greater cooperation between government, business and labor unions, according to participants in a “White, Blue and Green Jobs Report” panel earlier this week. The discussion was part of a “Workforce of the Future” conference sponsored by the National Journal.
Several key themes emerged from the discussion:
- Uncertainty in regulation is hindering growth. Building a new nuclear power plant can create a lot of jobs, in terms of construction and upstream for components, noted Joe Aldy, a White House adviser on energy and the environment. But it’s difficult for companies to make such massive investments in capital when the regulatory environment is in such flux, he said. “Uncertainty chills energy investments.”
- The U.S. education system puts it at a disadvantage. The nuclear industry, for example, is hiring even as other other industries are laying off people and offshoring jobs, noted Anthony R. Pietrangelo, the chief nuclear officer for the Nuclear Energy Institute. The challenge is in developing a qualified workforce to take these jobs. The weak link, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s Scott Paul: the “big black hole of high school.” Many of these jobs don’t require a four-year college degree, but they do need specialized training, he noted. In Germany, for example, students can get that training starting at the equivalent of the 9th or 10th grade. In the U.S. they must wait until college. “Germany is the world’s leader in solar, Paul said. “It’s not because Germany is sunny.”
- Not all “clean energy” jobs are created equal. It’s clear there are going to be jobs, but not what kind of jobs they will be — or even where, said Tom Woodruff, international executive vice president for SEIU. About 70% of the jobs created in the clean energy industry will be in manufacturing, Paul noted — which can be sent offshore.
What steps can/should government take to promote the development of the clean energy industry?
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