Green Jobs Summit… Most jobs still in the pipeline

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Recently, Pittsburgh has hosted a number of seminars and summits promoting green jobs and a green economy. Advocates claim, as they did during the Green Pathways to Prosperity Summit held May 20 at the Pittsburgh Project, that problems such as unemployment, blight and divestment in urban communities can be ameliorated by building a “robust, diverse and inclusive local green economy.”

looking-for-green
LOOKING FOR GREEN—Attendees look over informational brochures during the May 20 Pathways to Prosperity Green Jobs Summit at the Pittsburgh Project.

But what is this green economy? What are the green jobs that are going to remake the inner city, and how many are there?

Khari Mosley, the director of green economy initiatives for GTECH and a member of the Urban Green Jobs Alliance, facilitated the Pathways to Prosperity Summit and said he was pleased with the crowd and their level of interest, but admitted that translating interest into employment is still a challenge.

“The feedback was good, people felt more informed about issues around the green economy. So we’re laying the groundwork for future initiatives,” he said. “In reality, the green market here is still in its infancy, but we have studies projecting nearly 11,000 jobs locally within five years and 115,000 state wide.”

Currently he said, the only “green jobs” to be found locally are in the weatherization and insulation market and in urban agriculture. This, as the Courier reported in 2008, includes converting abandoned lots into community gardens, or into bio-diesel plantations—two initiatives have already been tried and are ongoing in East Liberty.

In coming years, Mosley said, there will be entry-level jobs in renewable wind and solar energy projects, and in installation of systems to curtail storm water runoff that will pay well and do not require advanced electronic, chemistry or engineering skills.

“Right now, we understand the frustration with the limited weatherization jobs because we meet with contractors every day,” he said. “We tell them we have these folks trained but we’ve been only able to place a handful. So it’s not going to happen right this second.”

Still, Mosley said, the training being offered is a benefit in itself to many in the Black community because there are so many who are not job-ready.

“We have adults who’ve never had a job, who don’t know anyone who had a job. We have people reading at third-grade level so it’s a struggle,” he said. “We are at least putting things in place so that as these government mandates to use renewable energy come on line, they’ll be ready.

In addition to Mosley, the Pathways to Prosperity featured two business owners who showed attendees there are ways to make green from “Green,” Mike Gable, executive director of Construction Junction , the city’s only nonprofit building materials reuse retailer.

Kevin Whalen, general manager for HVAC contractor Q-Dot also spoke about emerging opportunities in retrofitting and installing energy efficient systems in commercial, industrial and residential buildings.

“Before we get to the Jetsons, it’s about managing the energy we have more efficiently,” said Mosley. “We’re providing a pathway to middle-class careers.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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