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Green blue-collar jobs

Green blue-collar jobs

Just because you didn't finish school, doesn't mean you can't participate in the green economy. New training and accreditation opportunities abound for traditional trades to go green, often earning higher wages too. Find out how.

New technologies and training means new opportunities for technical trades to go green. Traditional and popular jobs such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and roofers are in a very strong position to take advantage of these new green opportunities.

It need not be about environmental rhetoric or trendy buzz phrases, there are persuasive economic and competitive arguments to be made for greening traditional blue-collar jobs.

Green collar jobs are already a growing part of the global economy. As demand has risen for clean energy and environmentally responsible manufacturing, green collar workers are producing everything from solar panels and wind turbines, to electric cars, renewable flooring materials, organic clothing and food.

Governments are putting money where they expect to see the payoff: new green jobs for 2010. Last year the United States pledged US$500m to provide training for new and growing green jobs; the United Kingdom announced a £535m package of green stimulus measures designed to tackle economic and environmental problems simultaneously; and Australia committed A$94m to generate 50,000 new green jobs, especially targeted towards apprenticeships and the long-term unemployed.

In this article, we look at five of the more common blue-collar trades, and how they are embracing new green opportunities:


Green electricians

Photovoltaics, wind power and cogeneration are heating up, literally. Electricians are at the forefront of the most dynamic green industry - clean energy. Employment in this field will increase 12% this decade, resulting in a thriving occupation.

In Australia, electricians and contractors can receive EcoSmart Electrician accreditation for working with energy efficiency technology, products and installations. This enables them to promote additional skills and add value to the services they offer to their customers.

Offering green products and services is increasingly important in all levels of electronics and electricity, and consumer demand is being driven by government-funded financial incentives for consumers to invest in energy saving products and technologies.

Electricians looking to go green should become well-acquainted with energy-saving switches for lights, fans, and heating/cooling equipment. Another growing skill is implementing wireless switches for programmable thermostats.


Green carpenters

Natural fiber cement ply boards, recycled metal and glass tiles, cork and bamboo flooring, salvaged woods from 1900’s structures with durable beams and timbers, compressed earth blocks and straw bales are just among some of the renewable materials at the hands of next-generation carpenters.

The growth in green, energy-efficient buildings is hastening the recovery of construction industries, and carpentry opportunities are expected to grow 13% this decade. A third of carpenters are self-employed, and many need to acquire the necessary skills by training on the job, enrolling in a vocational program or working as an apprentice for three or four years.

For carpenters looking to green their trade, there are many self-help measures that can be taken to learn about eco-friendly construction. Familiarize yourself with eco-friendly materials and green building methods by signing up for workshops about handcrafted woodworking, green roof insulation and clay plastering.


Green plumbers

Certified green plumbers are pioneering the latest green technologies following training and accreditation in climate care, water care, solar hot water, cutting-edge efficiency technologies and inspections.

“With all the alternative energy sources that people are coming up with - like solar heating, geothermal heat, and biofuel - there’s a big need for these workers,” says Laurence Shatkin, co-author of 300 Best Jobs Without A Four-Year Degree

Green plumbers are among the highest paid in the construction industry. Depending on the business itself and the area, the income levels that can be attained are nearly limitless. In some areas an hourly rate for a plumber can be over $100. If the going rate for plumbers is $60 per hour and you have your green certification you may be able to earn $70 or even $80 per hour in the same area.

An organisation called GreenPlumbers offers workshops throughout the United States on a regular basis and it has a presence in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Following 32 hours in total and successful certification, he or she is allowed to promote their plumbing business as green, and reap the increased clientele and good press that it can bring.


Green mechanics

Green mechanics are part of the push for a greener fleet of vehicles, which are more efficient, run on cleaner fuels and emit less greenhouse emissions.

No matter what is happening in the economy, mechanics are always in demand. “When a recession hits, people want to keep their cars running longer instead of buying new,” Shatkin says. A vocational training program in automotive technology (about 6-12 months) or a two-year associate degree is usually needed to be competitive in the marketplace.

Some eco-minded mechanics are taking it upon themselves to offer their customers cleaner options. Biodegradable, citrus-based degreasers, bioremediation devices, double-walled storage bins preventing leakage and other methods help to make a different.

Certification is a marketing edge, and many of the environmental practices cost zero, meaning green auto repair shops remain competitively priced. Owners of green auto shops have saved money by reducing the amount of absorbent they purchase, as well as attracting new customers looking for an eco-minded mechanic to service their hybrid.


Green roofer

Green roofing is a constantly evolving and exciting industry to be involved in, as many cities, councils and building owners recognize the appealing economics of green roofs.

Since much of the green roof work revolves around repairing or replacing outdated roofing systems, the occupation is fairly recession-proof. “There’s more concentration now on making green roofs that keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter,” Shatkin says.

If you’re strong, comfortable with heights and don’t mind getting dirty, becoming a green roofer could be for you. Roofers can receive Green Roof Professional (GRP) accreditation, by taking the GRP Accreditation Program. 

Green roofers must understand the principles, systems and competencies necessary to construct green roofs, green roof design and installation, waterproofing and drainage techniques, and sometimes studying the integration of plants and photovoltaic into green roof design.

It is a growing profession, as the trend towards green roofs is adopted around the world.

Are you looking for a green blue collar job? The WorkLifeGroup career toolkit can help you identify which green job is right for you, and how to get it.

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EARLY CAREER: Gen Y, Graduates and Early Careerists

Guy has worked as a business journalist, urban planner, slow food chef, denim salesperson and digital media manager, and shares original insights on diverse Gen Y career experiences.

Guy holds a B. Urban Planning & Development (Hons), has worked in 5 different industries and knows what its like to face the challenge of graduate transition. New career choices, personal branding and balancing passions with money are all part of the mix.

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