Jonathan Begley

December 1, 2009


Filed under: Career,Workforce — jonathanbegley @ 11:31 am

In recent television advertisements Senator Harry Reid claims that current renewable energy projects in Nevada, mainly solar, will create upwards of 41,000 jobs in Nevada.  Studies are not clear as to when and how long these jobs will exist but many expect to see jobs created as soon as 2010 and throughout most of the next decade. 

 A majority of these positions will be in the construction of solar, wind, and geothermal power plants.  With the recent collapse of the housing market, these positions are obviously welcome, and much needed.  In the Reno area alone 12% of all unemployed individuals were laid off from the construction industry.  There is a catch however.  As many construction workers are well aware, these jobs are not permanent.  In fact, estimates are that less than 10,000 jobs will be permanent positions directly associated with the power plants. 

 I am constantly asked “where are the green jobs?”  Well, the short answer to that question is that there aren’t any.  Nevada does not have the infrastructure in place for the immediate creation of “green jobs.”  Progress is being made at the federal, state and local levels.  These changes take time however.  Anyone interested in pursuing a career in Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy needs to understand that there are enormous possibilities in the future for renewable energy, but this will be a long and extremely competitive process.

 For those of us who have no experience, or skill for that matter, in the construction industry there are other opportunities.  Some of the first jobs that I see created will be that of solar panel installers.  Electrical experience is helpful because panels need to be hooked to the grid, but it is not mandatory.  Other positions that will become available will be energy auditors, sales professionals, appraisers, and inspectors.

 If you are interested in embarking on this career path here are a few tips that I highly suggest you consider.

  1.  Do your research.  Every state and region is different.  There are different opportunities, different certifications, and different laws.  I have found that one of the most helpful places to start is your state legislature website.  Recent laws have been created that directly address issues such as certifications, education, experience and other requirements.
  2. Do something.  It should be no surprise that there are thousands of people interested in employment in the “green” industry. Most people are desperate and are willing to do anything for a paycheck.  Don’t be discouraged by the number of people talking of “green” jobs because most will not actually do anything about it.  Look at this as an opportunity.  Talking well in an interview is one thing, but knowing what you are talking about is something that will separate you from the rest.
  3. Prepare to learn.  Many people are surprised when they ask me about green jobs and I direct them to local training providers, apprenticeships and community colleges.  Any new career or industry is bound to be filled with new skills and knowledge that you will need to have.  It won’t be easy and if you aren’t prepared for training and education, I suggest finding something a bit more traditional. 
  4. Search for assistance.  It should also not be a surprise that many of the community college and other training courses are not free.  Check with your Local Workforce Investment Board, your local employment or job training agencies for training providers in your area. Be upfront about your financial needs.  There is assistance out there but it is not always easy to find. 
  5. Get out of your shell.  It is easy for most people to get up and go to class.  Again, there will be many people taking the same steps, the same courses that you are.  Do not let this be a discouragement.  This is another opportunity for you to show your value.  Make connections.  Network.  It may not look like the typical networking event, but that is exactly what these classrooms can become.  I guarantee you that the teacher of the Energy Efficiency course at the local community college will be an asset to you in future job searches if you are able to rise above the rest.  Build those relationships.
  6. Have fun.  Unemployment is stressful on everyone.  Change is stressful on everyone.  But learning can and should be fun. 

I am interested to hear from more of those people out there who have begun this process and who are committed to this career path.  Please leave your comments below.  I have often found that those who are committed to our nation’s energy independence are some of the brightest, enthusiastic, and creative people.  It is these people who make this country great.


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