GREEN JOBS: Yes! They Exist and Pay Well. Just Get Certified!

Call it the “green economy.” This niche within the overall economy is creating more high-paying jobs than can be filled and is reviving the manufacturing and construction sectors. In addition, much of this emerging economy has no academic-credential barrier. Rather than a college degree, many require specific training in a field such as compliance or supply chain management, according to the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE).

According to the AEE, 67 percent of energy professionals interviewed indicated that there will be a growing shortage of qualified professionals in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the next five years. Over the next 10 years, that will worsen because 32 percent of those working in the energy-related sectors intend on retiring during that time period. Average base salary for current energy professionals is $96,683, with an average annual bonus of $7,356, according to AEE. Typical positions are energy manager, energy auditor, lighting efficiency expert, verification monitor, geo-exchange designer, carbon reduction executive, and high performance building administrator. Some can be even be filled by a certified professional with no college degree.

Think tank the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program also released a study on the topic. The Brookings Institute study confirmed that green jobs are creating a bright spot in an otherwise low-growth economy. For example, between 2008 and 2009, the clean economy grew at 8.3 percent. In 2010, 2.7 million jobs were created which were related to the environment. About half of those jobs required only a high school education.

Especially rosy are implications for manufacturing. About 26 percent of all green jobs are in the manufacturing sector. What’s being produced includes energy-efficient refrigerators, fuel cell components, electric vehicles, solar panel inverters, and management building controls. In Fremont, Calif., Tesla Motors hired 1,000 workers.

Construction is also getting a shot in the arm.  An example of this is the solar power complex being built in the Mojave Desert by BrightSource Energy. Construction requires about 1,000 workers.

It’s no surprise that training, which leads to certification, is becoming increasingly available. And, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home or office to get it! AEE provides that online. Many schools, including the University of San Francisco, offer a course in green supply chain management. That expertise is in demand. Companies such as Wal-Mart have incorporated green policies and procedures into their global supply chains. So have myriad other companies. They view it as not only the right thing to do but also a competitive advantage.

Help paying for training has been coming from the U.S. Department of Labor, as well. During 2010, it awarded $290 million for this kind of training and by 2012, the DOL pledges to develop about 120,000 Americans for green employment.

Consider the impact of how the American auto industry brought to the largely unskilled labor force a living wage before other industries. That encouraged a middle-class standard of living. The green sector has the potential to have the same kind of impact. Green jobs again make available the American Dream for those willing to train in the emerging methodologies and technologies.