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Green jobs: hope amid the hype

Andy Levin - July 13th, 2009
Green Jobs: Hope Amid the Hype
By Andy Levin 7/13/09

These days, it seems like the news is full of talk about green jobs. Here in Michigan, where we have lost thousands of good-paying jobs, the potential to leverage our water, wind, solar and advanced-manufacturing resources to create jobs makes the discussion about green jobs all the more exciting.
But how many green jobs actually exist? How can we create more of them? When can we expect a meaningful number of Michigan citizens to be working in the green economy?
In May, we started to answer these questions with the release of the Michigan Green Jobs Report, the first rigorous empirical study of the green economy in Michigan that includes specific green work in five areas:
1. agriculture and natural resources
2. clean transportation and fuels
3. increased energy efficiency
4. pollution prevention and environmental cleanup
5. renewable energy production
The results were impressive and represent a baseline to track future growth and change in Michigan’s green economy.
We found that Michigan currently has 109,067 private-sector green jobs, including 96,767 direct jobs and 12,300 support jobs. Already, green jobs make up 3 percent of private-sector employment.
Clean transportation and fuels is the largest green economy sector in Michigan, with just over 40 percent of green jobs. This is probably unique among the 50 states and reflects both our automotive heritage and a potential center of growth as hybrid and electric vehicles and advanced batteries develop.
While the report did not attempt to project green job growth, it suggests that there is huge potential for expansion over both the short and long term.
From 2005 to 2008, a sample of 358 green-related firms added over 2,500 jobs to Michigan’s economy. They grew by 7.7 percent at a time when Michigan’s overall private-sector employment actually shrank 5.4 percent.
Among renewable energy firms in this sample, the growth rate hit 30 percent. Renewable energy production, which today is Michigan’s smallest green sector, may be the fastest growing.
There’s more good news: the green economy appears to be a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. Among the sample of 358 green-related firms, over 70 appeared to be newly created since 2005, accounting for nearly 600 new jobs already.
What is more, green jobs tend to pay well. Thirteen of the top 15 sectors of green employment boast average weekly wages above Michigan’s overall private sector average, several of them far above.
And green jobs encompass a wide range of occupations and skill levels. As the green economy grows, it appears there will be room and need for many types of workers to lend a hand and brain.
Education and training are key issues for green employers. In multiple focus groups, employers emphasized the need for basics in math and reading with additional skills to be acquired on the job or in formal training in community colleges and universities.
The best news of all may be what Michigan’s 109,000 green jobs do not represent. These jobs were largely already in place before Michigan adopted a requirement that 10 percent of our energy come from renewable sources by 2015; before we required regulated utilities to spend a portion of their revenue on energy efficiency measures for their customers; before Michigan created incentives to manufacture advanced batteries here; before the implementation of President Obama’s Recovery Act, which, among other things, will pour $243 million into Michigan to weatherize the homes of low-income residents.
The green economy is real and here to stay. Future reports may show that public policies spurring the growth of the sustainable economy mean many more good jobs for Michiganders and all Americans. Now we know – that’s not hype, it’s hope. And the administration is continuing to go anywhere and do anything to create these green jobs – and attract them – here in Michigan.
To view the entire Green Jobs Report, visit: www.michigan.gov/documents/nwlb/GJC_GreenReport_Print_277833_7.pdf

Andy Levin, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, oversees state workforce programs, including No Worker Left Behind and Green Jobs Initiatives


 
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