Greening the Workforce

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Greening the WorkforceWe’ve all heard the buzz words—solar, wind, retrofitting—but what’s the real plan to implement this new green-collar workforce? In late April the Obama Administration created the Clean Energy Service Corps as a wing of AmeriCorps. The new program will triple the amount of AmeriCorps volunteer positions to 250,000 in the next decade. Starting in 2010, Clean Energy Service Corps volunteers will receive living stipends and education grants for weatherizing buildings, installing solar panels, and conducting energy audits.

States have also been encouraged to develop their own initiatives, and earlier this year an unsuspecting Southern coal state took the first step. Kentucky became the first to commit serious stimulus dollars to green jobs, creating its own Kentucky Clean Energy Corps (KCEC). Governor Steve Beshear’s corps will result in 3,306 new green-collar jobs this year and a $1.6 billion increase in personal income across the state over the next decade.

The pilot program is currently completing the weatherization of 100 low-income houses in Lexington and rural Bourbon and Clark Counties. After an energy audit, homes that need upgrades receive duct insulation, weather stripping, and new energy saving appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters. It is also developing a green jobs training curriculum in community colleges and technical schools.

Weatherization, which includes adding sufficient insulation and replacing inefficient boilers, is being touted as the logical first step in the green jobs movement. It gives a boost to the construction industry while providing long-term energy efficiency to low-income families, who will see a big break in their utility bills. Currently, inefficient buildings generate 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re putting people back to work with green jobs,” says Antonia Lindauer, Kentucky’s Director of Sustainability Policy. “If we can do this, any state can.”

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