So-called "green jobs" are growing at more than twice the rate of traditional jobs in Canada--9.1 per cent over the last decade compared with the average of 3.7 per cent--but it's the skilled trades that could stand to reap some of the biggest gains as new green initiatives in sustainable energy and construction get underway across North America.
When U.S. President Barack Obama earmarked $98 billion as part of the economic stimulus package for environmental and sustainable energy projects, it gave an important boost for the emerging field, a trend that has been slowly gaining steam in Canada in the past 10 years.
"I don't think there's any doubt that companies are certainly looking at green jobs as a mechanism to increase sales, increase share price . . . and we now need to get some good definition of what these green jobs are," says Grant Trump, president of the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO).
Careers in science and engineering will be one focus area of these green jobs as new technologies and processes are developed, but the skilled trades will also play an important role and provide new career opportunities for trades workers.
Green energy and construction projects will open up new careers in manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance of projects such as wind turbine farms, building retrofits, solar panel installation and transit-line building, for example.
"It definitely increases the job prospects for people in the skilled trades because a lot of the skills they're acquiring in the current process of apprenticeship programs . . . are definitely transferable to some of the things that are on the horizon," says Shaun Thorson, executive director of Skills Canada.
Mechanical CAD designers, fabrication workers, sheet metal workers and construction trades are all among jobs that will be affected by the trend toward green and sustainable projects in a variety of sectors, he says.
"It's important for people to start to think about the skills they have and how those skills are applied to occupations they might not have considered before," says Thorson.
Many wind farm projects, according to Skills Canada, have been stymied because of a lack of qualified people to construct towers and service the turbines. Existing homes are being retrofitted to become more efficient and some are even installing solar panels or cogeneration systems to sell power back into the grid.
Skilled trade workers have a role to play in all of these examples, requiring Red Seal journeymen in about 50 trades to keep up to date with emerging technology.
There are about 8,000 parts that go into the production of a wind turbine tower, for example, and trades workers and manufacturers need to be on top of the latest processes used in various green initiatives, says Thorson.
How a job gets classified as a "green job" is still something that's very much up for debate, however.
On Sept. 1, the first day of the WorldSkills Calgary 2009 competition, ECO will be hosting international delegates from organizations similar to ECO from around the world to discuss how to define a green job and how they fit into the real job market.
The WorldSkills competition will also be a good opportunity for young people to think not only about a career in the skilled trades, but how the environment could play a greater role in where they end up working if they decide to pursue a career in the trades.
In 2008, there were 530,000 jobs in Canada related to the environment, a number that is predicted to grow by 8.8 per cent in the next five years, according to ECO data.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada issued a joint report this year called, Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, which showed the trend toward developing more sustainable energy sources could provide jobs for electricians, computer and electrical engineers, iron and steel workers, welders, construction workers and sheet metal workers.
The green movement is certainly landing on the radar screen of more and more executives.
"We certainly know that on the health and safety side, and environmental considerations, that for industry in general this is at the top of their priority list," says Trump.
Calgary Herald, Mon Aug 31 2009
Byline: Derek Sankey
Alberta has the capacity to create over 20,000 jobs in the short run, and tens of thousands more long term by shifting its focus to a green economy, according to a new report from Albertan environmental groups and the Federation of Labour.
Greenpeace, Sierra Club Prairie and the Alberta Federation of Labour teamed up to release Green Jobs: It's time to build Alberta's future on April 22. The report suggests three areas where the Alberta government can immediately create jobs while beginning a green economy: retrofitting homes towards greater energy efficiency, building a high-speed light-rail transit corridor between Edmonton and Calgary and encouraging solar and wind power production by providing a feed-in tariff for green energy inputted to the grid.
"There's a different future for Alberta, one able to diversify and expand the economy while protecting our environment," said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace's tar sands campaigner. "The old ideology, of environment vs. economy, is dead. The ideology of the future says you have to have a strong environment to create a strong economy."
The Green Jobs report says a $2 billion government investment in home retrofitting would make 600,000 homes across the province more energy efficient while immediately creating 6,500-14,000 jobs over two years. Those new jobs would be focused on the construction industry, and timely given the fact that unemployment in the Alberta construction industry has increased 14 per cent over the past year, putting 22,000 construction workers out of work.
Alberta's Department of Employment and Immigration has not released a specific response to the report, but spokesperson Terry Jordan said the idea of building a green economy fits with Alberta's objectives.
"A green economy addresses environmental health and sustainability issues," Jordan said. "With advances in science and technology, a green economy uses cleaner and more renewable resources, decreases reliance on hydrocarbons, reduces energy consumption and increases efficiency. The next generation of environmental careers will help shape Alberta's future opportunities."
For the feed-in tariff idea, the report's authors took a cue from Ontario. In March 2009, Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to attempt a feed-in tariff on renewable energy. Ontario's proposed plan involves implementing a guaranteed price of over 80 cents/kwh for individual rooftop solar production and roughly 44 cents/kwh for large-scale solar production, to encourage the development of renewable energy from a wide range of sources.
Although the Green Jobs report did not provide specific numbers about the cost of an Alberta feed-in tariff, Hudema suggested it would be similar to the Ontario rates.
Bob McManus, spokesperson for Alberta Energy, said the government does not subsidize any fuel source and has no plans to do so.
"If you look at what they're paying as a subsidy in Ontario, around 42 cents per kilowatt hour, that's a huge subsidy," he said. "When something's in its infancy, it might work, but if it gets popular there's a huge cost associated with that."
Hudema, however, believes an investment in renewable energy would be good for the future of Alberta, especially small northern communities like Fort Chipewyan.
"If we develop heavily in renewables through a feed-in tariff, there are huge benefits for small communities to control where they're getting energy," Hudema said. "There's tremendous potential for lifting communities off the grid, especially around the Fort McMurray area."
Slave Lake Journal, Tues May 12 2009
Byline: Shawn Bell
The emerging cooperation between labour and environmental groups is flipping the traditional story, and creating a new way to see the environment and the economy. People get it. They understand that you can have a clean environment and a strong economy, and they like the idea of governments pursuing policies that will lead to the creation of green jobs.
Creating a more environmentally sustainable economy could create tens of thousands of jobs in Alberta, according a report released Wednesday by the Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada.
"There are many people who argue you can't have a strong economy and a healthy environment - that somehow we have to make a choice between the two," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
'Green jobs include familiar jobs with a new twist ...'-Green Jobs report
"We're starting to realize that in the long run, a healthy environment is essential for a healthy economy and that the economy can be put to work to improve the health of the environment."
A move toward creating more environmentally sustainable energy sources could provide jobs for electricians, computer and electrical engineers, iron and steel workers, welders, construction workers and sheet metal workers, the report says.
"Green jobs include familiar jobs with a new twist, like construction workers retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient," the report says.
It calls on the Alberta government to shift its focus from oil and gas extraction to initiatives to improve energy efficiency, the expansion of light rail and transit and the expansion of the province's renewable energy sector.
By retrofitting every home, the province could put 6,500 to 14,000 people back to work over the next two years, while reducing energy consumption and emissions, the report says, adding that this would cost less and have a greater long-term effect than the $2 billion the province spent over six years on the recently cancelled natural gas rebate program.
Transit, rail projects could employ thousands
Spending $10 billion to build better transit systems and construct a high-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton could create 19,000 to 28,000 jobs over seven years.
Establishing renewable energy tariffs, mandatory renewable energy targets for utilities and bans on new carbon-emitting projects would encourage development of more wind, solar and geothermal technology.
Other jobs could be created to provide water treatment for First Nations communities, reforestation, and cleaning up contaminated sites, the report adds.
The Alberta government needs to step in and make the policy changes for this shift to occur.
"This is a task that government will need to undertake. The private sector on its own hasn't been able to do this," the report says, adding the province has "tens of billions of dollars" available to move toward a greener economy
CBC News, Wed Apr 22 2009
Green jobs touted as fix for struggling economy: Eco-friendly investment could put 'tens of thousands' to work, new report says
Stephani Carter earned a reputation early in her career as "the Green Girl who asks tough questions," constantly pushing the envelope of her Earth-first sensibilities about architecture and design.
Today, she heads her own company -- EcoAmmo -- researching materials, teaching commercial builders how to go green, and generally spreading the word about sustainable design.
In the past, Carter has observed Earth Day by challenging her staff to a spirited round of Eco Bingo, a game she invented years ago, where the spaces on the card are filled with eco-friendly initiatives instead of numbers, and prizes are organically prepared dinners for two rather than cold, hard cash.
Carter and a growing number of others with so-called green jobs believe a healthy environment and a healthy economy are intertwined.
That belief is at the heart of a report to be released today that calls on the provincial government to invest in creating more green jobs to strengthen Alberta's sagging economy.
The report says "tens of thousands" of such jobs can be made available "right away," not only shrinking the province's oily footprint, but developing "a new green economy" at the same time.
The report is the result of an unlikely alliance between organized labour and environmentalists.
Recent job losses in Alberta -- 44,000 full-time jobs in the past three months alone, according to government statistics -- have prompted the Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace Canada and the Sierra Club's Prairie chapter to join forces in calling for a shift toward greater sustainability.
The report suggests the government stop pouring money into oil and gas and start investing in other green-job industries, such as transit.
The province can dramatically reduce automobile dependency by refurbishing buses and light-rail transit cars now in use, building rapid-bus systems, expanding LRT systems and creating a new high-speed rail system on the Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary corridor.
The report also calls for the creation of a new provincial Crown corporation to focus on renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar and geothermal.
Energy efficiency should be another major focus for green-job investment, the report suggests.
By retrofitting homes -- insulating, weather-stripping and installing high efficiency windows and furnaces -- up to 14,000 Albertans could be put to work in the next two years, while energy consumption, emissions and heating costs would be reduced.
For Carter and her fellow advocates, the recommendations in the report are timely, if not overdue.
"I'm 29, and a lot of us from the Earth Day generation of the '90s have really embraced environmentalism," she said.
"We're actually out in the job market now, looking to change jobs to be green, or starting green companies ourselves.
"We want to be part of a green workforce."
Edmonton Journal, Wed Apr 22 2009
Byline: Jamie Hall
The report, entitled Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, was commissioned by Greenpeace, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter and the Alberta Federation of Labour. This unique coalition responds to the interest Albertans have in a strong bottom line that also supports ecological health.
"This report shows what we've been saying for some time now: that a green economy is a healthy economy. Right now, we have the ability to put tens of thousands of Albertans back to work building the future," said Jeh Custer, Energy Campaigner with the Sierra Club Prairie Chapter. "All we need is a little bit of vision and a lot of leadership."
The green jobs strategy is needed now at a time when Alberta has record job losses and its first deficit in over a decade. Alberta has slipped from having the lowest unemployment levels in Canada to third. Since August 2008, employers have cut over 135,000 full-time positions.
The vision in the report will breathe new life into the province's economy and help improve its environmental track record, which has recently come under international criticism.
Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, shows a new way forward. It outlines what a green economy should look like. The green jobs of the future include electricians, computer software engineers, iron and steel workers, electrical engineers, electrical equipment assemblers, welders, metal fabricators, electrical equipment technicians, construction workers, machinists, construction labourers, operating engineers, and electrical power line installers and repairers, and sheet metal workers - a truly "green collar" industry.
"It's time this government invests in people and put our dollars towards building safe, vibrant and sustainable communities in Alberta," said Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "This report shows undeniably that a green investment will allow us to diversify our economy, to stabilize it and to put tens of thousands of people to work immediately building our green energy future."
Other green jobs could be created in providing water treatment for First Nations communities, improving wastewater treatment systems, reforestation, and cleaning up contaminated sites. These opportunities can create many more good green jobs in rural and urban areas.
"Instead of investing $2 billion in false solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage, the government should choose solutions that will help every Albertan," said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace, Canada. "The time has come to let go of what's clearly not working and begin focusing our energy on creating the clean, green economy that will sustain us for generations to come. It's time to build the future."
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For more information, please contact:
Gil McGowan, President, AFL, office - 780-483-3021; cell � 780-218-9888
Jeh Custer, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter, 780-660-5483
Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Tar Sands Campaigner, 780-504-5601
Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace Media and Public Relations Officer, 778-228-5404