Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Green Jobs Satisfy in Many Ways

This week has produced some interesting news about green jobs. This subject is dear to my heart because I’ve been writing about it, most recently in Quick Green Jobs Guide: Six Steps to a Green Career. I’ll also be speaking about it on November 1 at the STEMtech conference hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College.

One of the most intriguing things I’ve read about green jobs this week was in a USA Today article that I learned about from a JIST colleague, Athena Wampler. The article, “Are workers in green jobs happier? Study offers clues,” reports on research by two academics at University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. The research project, called “Business for the Greater Good,” is being done in cooperation with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which is working with dairy farmers to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from their farms.

One of the researchers, Ante Glavas, commented that “We’re finding that people who work for green companies have a pride-in-ownership mentality and are happier and more productive.” In fact, he said, workers who feel they are contributing to the greater good can be as much as 40% more productive.

This study provides an interesting new way to look at the economic benefits of green business practices. Most other studies focus on results such as the cost savings from recycling, conservation, and use of alternative energy. Or they may estimate the economic impacts of global warming. The Notre Dame researchers focus instead on the productivity of workers. Their study is a reminder that one of the principles of career development--helping people find meaning in their work--makes good business sense.

Another lesson to take away from this study is that the shift to a green economy is happening for a wide range of reasons, not simply because it’s better for our planet. This lesson was reinforced by a news story in The New York Times, “In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy.” It reports on how six towns in Kansas competed to achieve the greatest reductions in energy use. A small nonprofit group, the Climate and Energy Project, understood that many Kansans are skeptical about global climate change and resent large-scale government intervention. So the group appealed instead to the values of “thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction, and economic prosperity.” They emphasized the importance of reducing dependence on foreign oil, the opportunities offered by green jobs, and the concept of stewardship of God’s creation. As a result of the program, “energy use in the towns declined as much as 5 percent relative to other areas--a giant step in the world of energy conservation, where a program that yields a 1.5 percent decline is considered successful.”

Another new development was the release of a bibliography listing dozens of reports about green industries and green jobs. Compiled by the O*NET Development Center, this list of references (a PDF) includes URLs for almost all of these reports.

For more about green jobs, look to the latest edition of the Occupational Outlook Quarterly for an article about wind service technicians. Or look at what the Solar Foundation reports from its 2010 National Solar Jobs Census: a workforce of 93,000, with a projected increase of 26%, representing 24,000 net new jobs by August 2011.

Green jobs are the wave of the future because they can be very satisfying. They offer people a sense of purpose in their work as well as growing job opportunities.

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