Landmark study on green collar jobs
February 14, 2008 -- “Green collar jobs” has entered the American consciousness in recent months, frequently touted by presidential candidates and local leaders. Professor Raquel Pinderhughes’ latest study demonstrates how the green boom can provide pathways out of poverty for hard-to-employ workers.
"This study shows unequivocally that green collar jobs can provide workers with limited labor market skills with good jobs that can lift them out of poverty," says Pinderhughes, professor of urban studies at San Francisco State University.
Pinderhughes interviewed the owners and managers of more than 20 Berkeley-based green businesses and found that green collar jobs are highly suitable for people who would typically struggle to find work. Eighty-six percent of the businesses surveyed hire workers with no previous direct experience, and 94 percent provide on-the-job training for employees in entry-level positions.
Pinderhughes began using the term "green collar jobs" in 2004. It was coined by Alan Durning in 1999, referring specifically to logging jobs in the Northwest United States, but Pinderhughes has expanded and revised the term to mean manual-labor jobs in businesses whose products and services directly improve environmental quality. Her research identifies 22 economic sectors in which green jobs are located, ranging from bike repair services and recycling to solar panel installation.
One of the businesses featured in Pinderhughes' study is the Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which offers a host of environmental services, including the City of Berkeley's curbside recycling services.
"Many of our recycling drivers come from challenging backgrounds with low levels of education, some with limited English skills," said Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center. "Having good union jobs has given many of them the financial stability to become home owners or provide better support to their dependents."
Bourque reports an expanded workforce, something reflected in Pinderhughes' study which found that 86 percent of businesses surveyed were experiencing significant growth.
The green collar sector may be ripe for growth, but what's needed now, according to Pinderhughes, are programs to connect workers with new green opportunities. "Local governments need to foster effective partnerships between job training programs and local green businesses, and to establish green business councils," Pinderhughes said.
Her study outlines a practical training and placement model that was already adopted in 2008 by the Oakland City Council's Green Job Corps program. Meanwhile, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has said he will use Pinderhughes' findings to bolster increased support for the training and placement of green collar workers in Berkeley.
-- Elaine Bible
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