In this article, we are going to explore some myths about green, environmental, and infrastructure jobs that I have heard from job seekers. Before we get started on the myths, let's define green, environmental and infrastructure jobs.
The Definition of Green, Environmental, and Infrastructure Jobs
Green, environmental and infrastructure jobs are those jobs which improve the quality of life, restore the environment, and lessen environmental impacts through technology, conservation, and recycling of resources. I am sure there are people who will disagree with this definition, but I will explain it further in future articles. Let's move on.
MYTH #1: There are no green, environmental, and infrastructure jobs being created because of the recession.
It is true that the financial crisis has had a detrimental effect on the creation of green, environmental, and infrastructure jobs because governments are the largest consumers of these services.
However, there are large numbers of jobs opening everyday because companies and governments must spend money to stay economically competitive and compliant with federal environmental laws.
To understand where the jobs are being created, job seekers need to know the drivers behind the markets.
Let's look at them:
- Environmental regulations and routine maintenance:
Most people know that the EPA is trying to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury and other toxic emissions from coal fired power plants, manufacturing and government operations.
These regulations not only seek to improve air quality but also create jobs in specialized industries such as air pollution control equipment companies, environmental consulting (stack testing) firms, and carbon trading companies.
In addition to spending money on regulatory compliance projects, governments must also maintain our infrastructure (bridges, roads, water plants, etc). The I-35 bridge collapse of 2007 in Minneapolis prompted government officials to accelerate their transportation infrastructure maintenance projects.
This acceleration will lead to more engineering and construction jobs as governments have money to finance projects. The same type of situation is happening in energy and water infrastructure.
- Natural and man-made disasters:
The massive tornadoes of 2011, the 2011 Japanese earthquake, hurricane Katrina, and the BP oil spill triggered massive environmental emergency responses that required thousands of trained workers for temporary clean up and long term reconstruction jobs. These situations also create jobs in healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, trucking and other industries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry studies, positions like electrical lineman, water treatment operator, and natural gas technician will have large vacancies due to the record numbers of retiring “baby boomers” over the next decade.
The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) has predicted that almost 50% of the energy and utility technician workforce will need to be replaced by 2015.
The issue at hand is there are not enough new workers entering the industry to meet the demand.
MYTH #2: You must have a four year college degree.
Not true. Positions like Surveyor or Safety Coordinator may initially require a high school diploma, but candidates must pass advanced training courses in order to get promoted.
Here is a short list of positions that may not require a college degree:
1. Computer Aided Design (CAD) Technician
2. Construction Inspector
3. Electrical Lineman
4. Engineering Technician
5. Environmental Field Technician
6. Geomatics Technician/Surveyor
7. Hazardous Waste Technician
8. HVAC Technician
9. Natural Gas Technician
10. Water/Sewer Pipe layer/Fitter
11. Safety Coordinator
12. Construction Scheduler
13. Tunnel Boring Machine Operator
14. Water Treatment Plant Operator
MYTH # 3: All green jobs are “clean energy” jobs.
Although the federal government has made a concerted effort to promote solar, wind, and wave energy as green jobs, the public needs to know that not all green jobs are clean energy jobs. Here are some examples:
- Air Dispersion Modelers measure interactions of air borne pollutants such as Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) in the atmosphere using computer software. Their efforts lead to the discovery of harmful emissions and the installation of new pollution control equipment.
- Environmental Health Technicians work with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), public health departments, and other entities to measure the health effects of contamination on animals and humans after disasters and releases.
- Biogas Plant Operators run the facilities which generate electricity from gases produced by landfills and municipal wastewater treatment plants.
- Hazardous Waste Technicians make sure that chemical, medical, and radioactive waste are properly packaged, transported and disposed in the proper manner.
MYTH #4: There are no opportunities for minorities and women.
As a recruiter, I cringe when I hear someone say, "There are no opportunities for minorities and women." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Green, environmental and infrastructure companies are looking for the best, brightest, and most qualified people for their positions. The opportunities are not just in engineering and science but also in law, real estate, manufacturing, information technology, and recycling.
Many jobs go unfilled because of a shortage of qualified candidates.
The major issue with green, environmental and infrastructure jobs is there are not enough qualified workers coming into these fields. It is my hope that this article has started to change the perception of green, environmental, and infrastructure jobs from difficult and unattainable to viable opportunities for job seekers. Stay tuned for more articles.
© Copyright, 2011, Stephen Hinton. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Stephen Hinton, Stephen Hinton is the Managing Director of Hinton Human Capital, a Talent Acquisition and contract staffing firm focused on the green, environmental, and infrastructure industries. information, visit Hintonhumancapital.com.