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Green-Collar Jobs in America's Cities: Building Pathways Out of Poverty and Careers in the Clean Energy Economy

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The movement to make American cities more sustainable, efficient and livable is perhaps the greatest new engine for urban economic growth, innovation and job creation in many decades.

The American Solar Energy Society estimates that in 2006 alone, renewable energy and energy efficiency were responsible for $970 billion in industry revenues and 8.5 million jobs. This number will grow exponentially if our nation commits itself in earnest to reducing carbon emissions and making economy-wide improvements in energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, America’s growing green economy faces a looming labor shortage in sectors like manufacturing, construction and installation. In a 2005 survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, 90 percent of respondents indicated a moderate to severe shortage of qualified, skilled production employees like machinists and technicians. Similarly, the National Renewable Energy Lab has identified a shortage of skills and training as a leading barrier to renewable energy and energy efficiency growth. This labor shortage is only likely to get more severe as baby-boomers skilled in current energy technologies retire; in the power sector, for example, nearly one-quarter of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five to seven years.