Layoffs, job cuts, and downsizing are all common terms in the employment industry as of late, and it seems as if no sector is immune during the recession that we are experiencing. General Motors announced recently 47,000 worldwide job cuts, the state of California is starting the offloading of 20,000 government employees, and even upcoming Hayward based solar startup OptiSolar (who procured a 550MW thin film PV agreement with PG&E) recently laid off half of its 600 man staff. In the meantime, places like Mesa, Arizona are dealing with not just unemployment that is pegged to hit upwards of 8.8% but also being labeled as the third highest rate of foreclosure filings in the country. The ongoing sour employment news combined with further uncertainty is a vicious combination.
To the rescue though is an attempt by the Obama administration to fix some problems in the US economy and the unveiling of the 787 billion dollar stimulus package. The total package includes 80 billion dollars geared toward the renewable energy industry. Not all of it will go toward creating renewable jobs but will be spread out through creating a better electricity grid and transmission network, weatherizing homes and government buildings, energy R&D, and programs to promote renewable energy to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. The numbers are fuzzy of how many renewable jobs actually will be create, but White House economist numbers have said that as high as 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved by the end of 2010. From another perspective, economics professor Robert Polin at the University of Massachusetts said that 1.7 million jobs would be created through the green investments of the stimulus package.
What does all this mean? Nobody really knows with certainty but it should signal that times are changing for some American workers and how they transition themselves into a new era that will require retraining and different skillset that what was required in the last decade or two. Of course not everyone is going to get a green renewable job but for those millions of Americans looking for work or for Americans looking to take a gamble in transitioning into a growing field, this stimulus package does provide some of those tools. It would be advantageous for manufacturing workers to learn how to install photovoltaic rooftop installations, for housing and insurance workers to add value into local or state permitting of renewable energy, and for engineers to learn the trades of monocrystalline photovoltaics and biomass instead of focusing in CDMA and Java programming. Maybe this boost to the green industry will also translate to addition of retail jobs at the mall to sell solar chargers for phones/laptops and allow construction workers to build utility scale renewable power projects in the next 7 years while the 30% investment tax credit for renewable projects will be around. Do your due diligence on what local renewable companies are hiring, search through online job sites, brush up on the lingo of the sector, and good luck finding green jobs!!!