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Congressional Testimony

u.s. department of labor

before the
subcommittee on workforce protections
COMMITTEE ON education and labor


MARCH 31, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the role of green jobs in our country's economic recovery.

In this statement, I will provide an overview of how Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis has deployed, and will deploy in the coming months, the funding made available to the Department under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) to promote green jobs and the green economy.

The Recovery Act, signed by President Obama on February 17, 2009, is the most significant single payment our Nation has ever made to ensure our future economic success. The Recovery Act will enable the repair and improvement of the country's infrastructure, fund innovative research and development initiatives, create job opportunities for Americans, and propel the growth of "green jobs". This landmark legislation will put us on a course toward economic recovery and growth.

While there is considerable discussion about the role of green jobs in the economic recovery, there is not yet an agreed upon definition of green jobs. The provisions of Title X — Green Jobs of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set forth one definition that includes a wide array of industry sectors. These occupations range from construction and skilled trade work retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency to manufacturing work implementing sustainable processes, as well as jobs involving renewable energy installation and maintenance, such as building and servicing wind turbines.

The investment in green jobs will not only help to re-start the economy and put Americans back to work, but will also help make America more energy independent. The investment in our Nation's clean energy future will not only secure America's energy supply, but will do so in a way that promotes economic stability and the advancement of all of our communities. For instance, many green jobs are likely to be in the construction trades, and these jobs tend to pay above averages wages. The May 2007 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that construction and extraction occupations pay a median hourly rate of $17.57 as against $15.10 for all occupations. In addition, data from the Current Population Survey published by BLS indicates that 21% of construction workers were represented by a union in 2008. Therefore, we can expect that many green jobs will pay 10% to 20% better than other jobs and will be unionized. These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation's energy dependence.

BLS Commissioner Keith Hall testified at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on March 25, 2009, about the effort to measure green jobs. In his testimony, Commissioner Hall noted several challenges in measuring green jobs: 1) green activities often cut across industries and occupations, or 2) green jobs account for a subset of activity within an individual industry and occupational category. These challenges are present whenever we try to measure jobs in an emerging sector of the economy, such as information technology and biotechnology. However, there are green jobs that can be easily measured in categories such as the production of renewable electric power. BLS is currently developing approaches to measure green jobs, including surveying workplaces in industries where green activity is expected to occur to identify both the extent to which they are performing green activities and the occupations of the employees who are doing such work.

While BLS is working on ways to measure green jobs, billions of dollars have already been distributed across the Federal government to the states for infrastructure investments and research and development investments that that will create opportunities for green job growth. For its part, the Department has already made available $3.47 billion of the Recovery Act to support workforce investment activities. Such activities include retraining dislocated workers, summer employment for youth, and community service employment for low-income seniors. The Recovery Act also makes available $250 million in funds for Job Corps projects. Future construction and repair of Job Corps facilities will incorporate green technologies. Job Corps will also develop and implement green jobs training into their curricula at all Centers.

The Department of Labor consistently invests in America's workforce by supporting training and re-training of workers, and providing assistance in getting them jobs. As we work to expeditiously and effectively carry out our responsibilities under the Recovery Act, the Department and other Federal agencies are collaborating to identify effective green training approaches and opportunities.

The Department and other Federal agencies have already begun to coordinate their work to strategically implement programs that ensure the connection between investments in infrastructure and research and development to job training and worker placement. For example, during a recent visit to the Community College of Allegheny County Secretary of Labor Solis and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu recently announced a major new investment to create green jobs in Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvania communities. With these types of partnerships, we are building both a stronger economy and a secure, clean energy supply.

Secretary Solis' primary focus in administering the Department's Recovery Act initiatives will be to ensure that green jobs workforce training is an effective and comprehensive effort to move America's workforce and economy forward. The greening of our economy will bring significant changes to the American workplace and will require the American workforce to acquire new and different skills.

The Department of Labor is developing plans for use of the $500 million provided in the Recovery Act for research and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and will soon issue solicitations for grant applications. These grants will provide an infusion of workforce training funding that will help ensure there is a qualified American workforce to meet the needs of our country's expanding green industries. The Department of Labor will focus on engaging with communities, writing guidance, evaluating grant applications and leveraging funds so that we can provide grants in an efficient and effective way and impact the communities most in need.

The Department will look for ways to make the workforce investment system responsive to the labor market demands for workers in green industries. In fact, the Department recently issued guidance to states to help implement the job training provisions of the Recovery Act, noting that the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries offer workers new opportunities that may require additional training and certification. Through the Recovery Act, a number of other Federal programs will receive large investments in programs and projects that could create green jobs. These include investments in renewable energy infrastructure, energy-efficiency home retrofitting, biofuel development, and advanced drive train/vehicle development and manufacturing. As states receive Recovery Act funding and implement training and reemployment strategies, the Department encourages states to recognize opportunities to prepare workers for green jobs related to other sources of Federal funding. The Department has also encouraged states to expand existing training programs, such as registered apprenticeship programs that have the potential to prepare workers for careers in the renewable energy sectors and for other green jobs. Finally, the Department's guidance has encouraged states to identify regional and local environmental resources, businesses, and pre-apprenticeship programs promoting green jobs and products to provide youth summer work experiences that prepare them to compete in a "green" economy. With green jobs workforce training, we will ensure that American workers have the needed experience and expertise to succeed in the green economy.

The Department of Labor is directing its efforts and resources to assist American workers in acquiring the skills they will need to access the new job opportunities that will become available in the green economy, thus ensuring that employers in existing and emerging high-growth industries will have the skilled and innovative workforce. We must ensure that there is an effective pipeline for training which allows people to have both short-term training opportunities and the opportunity to advance into higher-skilled jobs. The workforce investment through the Recovery Act will help enable our economic recovery, promote future economic growth, and advance shared prosperity for all Americans.