Last Tuesday at the Fourth Middle Class Task Force Meeting in Denver, Vice President Biden announced a $500 million green jobs training program designed to connect people to opportunities in the clean energy economy.
For many, small investments in training in new technology can pay off. Tom Fittus was at the Task Force meeting. A licensed electrician, Tom was looking for a new job after his old employer’s business slowed down. He enrolled in a two week solar-specific job training course and was hired by Namaste Solar, a small business in Colorado that builds and designs solar electric systems. Tom’s boss Blake Jones said Tom’s course made him "stick out" when he was considering hiring Tom, and considers specialized green job training as a substantial competitive advantage for both job seekers and businesses. Blake has even increased Namaste’s workforce by 20% this year and plans on increasing it by 40% by 2010- with help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Roby Roberts of Vestas America, a wind turbine manufacturer, also shared the story of his company. Vestas is investing $1.5 billion in manufacturing facilities in Colorado that will employ 2,500 people when in operation. After it is built, Vestas’s Pueblo plant will be using more than two Golden Gate Bridges of steel to build wind turbine towers every year. A barrier to expanding its operations in the United States is finding skilled workers. That’s why Vestas is training the workforce it will need in Pueblo through a partnership with the local community college.
Garett Reppenhagen, a veteran who served as a sniper in Iraq and in Kosovo, was also at the Task Force meeting. Garett is a member of Veterans Green Jobs, an organization representing veterans of every branch of military who have enrolled in the Veterans Green Jobs Academy, a training and deployment program in energy efficiency and conservation. When these veterans graduate from their green jobs training on June 2nd, they will be leaders in green building, energy and renewable energies. As our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, green jobs offer high paying opportunities for veterans that cannot be outsourced.
These are just three examples of why the $500 million green jobs training program is critical – whether to help someone update their skills so they can work on new technology like solar panels or to support the development of a skilled clean energy workforce to attract investment by renewable energy companies – investing in training is the first step toward expanding opportunities for the middle class in our clean energy economy.
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor for the Vice President.