Every big shift in the economy creates many new job opportunities. Think about what happened when computers arrived. They created many new occupations, such as computer programmers and computer systems analysts. But more important was the way technology changed existing occupations. By 2001, 56 percent of all workers were using computers, but only a small fraction of these workers had the word “computer” in their job title.
Something very similar is expected to happen to careers as we shift to a green economy. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies three kinds of occupations that will contribute to the green economy:
Green Increased-Demand Occupations: These existing jobs will take on many new workers as green practices and technologies expand. The work itself and the skill requirements will not change much. Examples: Boilermakers, Chemists, Electricians, Forest and Conservation Workers, Locomotive Engineers, Power Distributors and Dispatchers, Rough Carpenters, Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists.
Green Enhanced-Skills Occupations: These existing jobs will experience changes in work tasks and skill requirements as we shift to a green economy. They may or may not see increases in employment. Examples: Aerospace Engineers, Construction Managers, Financial Analysts, Geological Sample Test Technicians, Landscape Architects, Machinists, Marketing Managers, Plumbers, Storage and Distribution Managers, Urban and Regional Planners.
Green New and Emerging Occupations: These jobs are being created to do new kinds of work or meet new skill requirements. Examples: Biofuels Processing Technicians, Biomass Production Managers, Chief Sustainability Officers, Energy Auditors, Fuel Cell Engineers, Logistics Managers, Methane/Landfill Gas Generation System Technicians, Precision Agriculture Technicians, Solar Photovoltaic Installers, Weatherization Installers and Technicians.
These definitions point to an important truth: Most green work opportunities will be in existing occupations. That’s why it's important to become informed about green jobs even though the green economy has not fully emerged yet.
To see the information the Department of Labor has about green jobs, go to the O*NET site at http://www.onetcenter.org/green.html.