Saturday, November 28, 2009

Green Jobs are Good for Wisconsin

State and local energy policy expert Satya Rhodes-Conway told an audience at Lakeshore Technical College that the green economy could create up to 5 million jobs in the coming years, and many American workers already possess most of the skills needed to fill those positions.

"Renewable energy generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced and per dollar of investment than fossil fuel energy," said Rhodes-Conway, a senior associate with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy and organizer of the Wisconsin Apollo Alliance. "These jobs are really attainable for a lot of the folks who are unemployed or are just coming into the workforce. They don't require us to attain many new skills, but to produce something new with a skill set we already have."

Her talk was last Wednesday.

Rhodes-Conway defined a "green job" as a good, family-supporting, middle-skill job in the primary sector of the green economy. She said technical colleges are "a key part" in the process of supporting this economy, as they provide services to advance workers' skills so they can be applied in new areas.

"Places like Lakeshore Technical College, which trains people for green jobs, are key in all of this," Rhodes-Conway said. "You can't do the work if you don't have the workers to do it."

She emphasized retraining as key in not only preparing workers for new jobs, but in saving current jobs as well.

"Saving jobs counts more than ever these days," Rhodes-Conway said. "Conversion or retooling is important, and states need to help industries retool for the clean energy economy. If we enact the right policies and focus on the training, we really can move into a green economy — employing people doing good, well-paid work in an industry that is less harmful to our environment."

Rhodes-Conway cited Orion Energy Systems, Tower Tech, Flambeau River Paper, Franklin Energy, Cardinal Glass and Energy Composites Corporation as examples of green companies that have supported and grown Wisconsin's workforce in recent years.

Wednesday's presentation was part of LTC's EnVISION series, which brings thought leaders together with local business leaders and college staff to share their insights on timely topics.

"There's a lot of opportunity out there for businesses to start up and be successful in this new green economy," said LTC President Mike Lanser. "At LTC, we're committed to creating awareness and understanding of energy policy affecting the state economy, jobs and education."

The Center on Wisconsin Strategy is a national policy center and field laboratory for high-road economic development — a competitive market economy of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability and capable democratic government. The Apollo Alliance was founded as a joint project of COWS and the Institute for America's Future. The Wisconsin Apollo Alliance is administered through COWS.


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