With all this talk of green-collar jobs saving the economy, it’s reasonable to wonder who’s going to fill these positions, how these people are going to be properly educated and trained, and how they’re going to pay for all that training and education.

One possible answer comes from the 11th District of California, in the form of legislation introduced four days ago by Rep. Jerry McNerney. He proposes that the government fund $100 million in competitive grants for the development of “career and technical training” -- what some old-school remodelers may know as vocational education -- in the field of renewable energy.

Developed in conjunction with the Association for Career and Technical Education, the bill is H.R. 1775, the “Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act” (or the GREEN Act). It’s based on these findings by Congress, quoting directly from the actual language of the bill:

  • Career and technical education provides education pathways that help students explore interests and careers that support the United States economy;

  • The United States needs to develop renewable energy options that conserve energy and provide energy efficiency and new and yet unrecognized fields are developing as a result of the attention and focus on renewable energy, and new workers will be needed for professions in these fields;

  • The Conference of Mayors reports that millions of U.S. workers across a wide range of familiar occupations, States, and income and skill levels will all benefit from the project of defeating global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy;

  • A report commissioned by the American Solar Energy Society attributed 8.5 million jobs in 2006 to renewable energy or energy efficient industries and the Apollo Alliance predicts that the Nation could generate 3 million to 5 million more green jobs over the next 10 years;

  • More than 40 percent of the fastest growing occupations will require an associate's degree, a post-secondary vocational certificate, or extensive job training, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Report;

  • More than 80 percent of respondents in the National Association of Manufacturers 2005 skills gap report indicated that they are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers overall with 13 percent reporting severe shortages and 68 percent indicating moderate shortages;

  • Career and technical education graduates are more likely to be in the labor force and earn more than graduates who have a high school degree; and

  • Career and technical education programs need support in acquiring the latest technology and developing programs that prepare students for the new and emerging renewable energy field.

If the bill becomes law -- a huge if, to be sure -- the plan is for post-secondary institutions and career and technical schools to use these grants to enter into public-private partnerships to develop training programs.
 “It will help create a workforce ready for a green economy,” says Sabrina Kidwai, ACTE’s media relations manager.

Elaborating further, ACTE executive director Jan Bray says, “Career and technical education offers early exposure to students regarding sustainable energy career options and provides the education and training necessary to ensure future employees meet workforce pipeline needs.” The bill “helps support and encourages CTE programs across the country to develop sustainability partnerships with post-secondary institutions and business and industry and focusing on innovative ways to deliver the information.”

Along with developing training programs of study, the grant can also help provide funding to build or improve their facilities to become more energy efficient.

And, one would think, sustain remodeling companies that get in on the act.

Click here to learn more about, and track the status of, H.R. 1775, the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act.

Click here to learn more about career and technical education.