Lots of money is flowing from all levels of government to support energy efficiencies. But how much of that money is going to create green jobs that pay well and benefit families that need retrofits and weatherization the most—and who can least afford both the upgrades and the burden of inefficiency?
The good news is that at the local and national level labor unions and vocational programs are starting to train workers to get the skills they need to get green jobs.
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Training to gear up for a growing trend toward energy efficiency will be critical for getting the work done and providing jobs. That’s where unions—and smart policy—can play a role.
Just last week here in Seattle the Labors’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) unveiled a training program in Seattle that is aimed at training their members to be more competitive for new work in the efficiency field. LIUNA kicked off the program by having some of its members weatherize a woman’s home for free.
Unions have an interest in using the new dollars as an organizing tool. Helping their members get the benefits of stimulus and other dollars being moved into retrofits and weatherization makes them relevant at a time when union membership is on the decline.
But vocational schools are also part of the picture—as well as policy that sets up the proper incentives to do the work in the first place. For example, we have written about SB 5649 Energy Efficient Buildings which passed the Washington State Legislature earlier this year. A direct outcome of that policy is the Seattle Vocational Institute Pre-apprenticeship Construction Program which is working with Washington State University to begin training thousands of unemployed and under-employed people to work in the energy efficiency field. This is all using funds provided by SB 5649. Here is a student talking about his experience with the program:
Early indications are that labor and vocational schools in Washington are mobilizing to train workers and focus their efforts on getting efficiencies where they will have the greatest benefit. This is what green jobs are supposed to look like.