Ask Us Anything: Skill Development and the Growth of Green Jobs - March 31, 2022

This Ask Us Anything webinar discusses how the green economy includes roles throughout the economy at large, including the energy industry and companies with products that are substitutes for high-emission products.

Event Video


This Q&A Digest has been derived from the Ask Us Anything session "Skill Development and the Growth of Green Jobs" held on March 31, 2022, with Paula DiPerna, special adviser to CDP North America; Betony Jones, senior adviser for workforce at the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and Peggy Brannigan, director of global environmental sustainability at LinkedIn.

The United Nations describes a green economy as "low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive." In this webinar, panelists discuss how the green economy includes roles throughout the economy at large, including the energy industry and companies with products that are substitutes for high-emission products. Sustainability refers to the capacity to maintain a process over time.

The comments included are made by staff members of the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity and our panelists. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System.

Key Takeaways

  • The green economy is driven by environmental and economic imperatives like improving energy or water efficiency, which can span a wide range of sectors. Being inclusive of all job functions when we think about the green economy is important for creating an environmental impact and climate resiliency.
  • Opportunity for workers interested in the green economy is abundant. Demand for green talent is growing faster than the supply of workers in the industry. For instance, job postings on LinkedIn in renewable energy grew by 237 percent between 2015 and 2020.
  • The green economy is often thought of as a job creation movement, but it also is a way to preserve existing jobs and maintain stability.
  • Improving the quality of green jobs is critical for attracting workers to green industries. Employers and the industry need to signal to workers that investing in their skill development balances their opportunity costs.

The Atlanta Fed’s Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity offers several data tools and publications to help people track unemployment and reemployment and get other potential policy and practice suggestions as they manage recovery from the pandemic.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta resources
Opportunity Occupations Monitor tracks trends in jobs that offer salaries of at least the US annual median wage (adjusted for local cost of living differences) for which employers do not require a bachelor's degree—opportunity occupations—in states and metro areas.
Rework Community Insights Monitor offers information on jobs and training at the local level.
Workforce Currents includes articles on various workforce topics addressing research, policy, and practice.
Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity Events describes upcoming events and includes registration links for Ask Us Anything webinar sessions.

Resources from our Panelists:
Global Green Skills Report 2022 (PDF) provides data on green skills and jobs from across the world to inform policymakers and business leaders.
Renewables & Environment Jobs Could Overtake Oil and Gas in U.S. by 2023 by Karin Kimbrough describes how demand for green talent is growing compared to other energy sectors.
Solar Energy Innovators Program Develops Careers that Drive the Clean Energy Transition is an article by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy explaining a 2017 program that promotes innovation in the renewable energy sector.
How Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Supports Innovative Clean Energy Entrepreneurs provides examples of how the Department of Energy is supporting innovators through funding, training, and research opportunities.
This Climate Action Can Help Cities and Businesses Alike Advance Goals by Katie Walsh of CDP North America provides a blueprint for local governments and business to align climate goals to meet the needs of the economy and the environment.
WorkingNation’s Green Jobs Now series is looking at green jobs opportunities and the skills needed to get those jobs across the country with a series of state-by-state reports.

Speaker Bios

Paula DiPerna, special adviser, CDP North America

Paula DiPerna is a pioneer of strategic global environmental and philanthropic policy, and a widely published author and commentator on contemporary issues. DiPerna serves on the board of advisers of Global Kids, whose mission is to develop global citizenship; the circle of advisers of Rachel’s Network, which links women philanthropists who have environmental interests; and the board of directors of The HistoryMakers, a unique oral and video archive of profiles of African American leaders in all sectors.

DiPerna served previously as president of the international division of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the world’s first cap-and-trade system covering all six greenhouse gases, which also launched the Tianjin Climate Exchange (TCX), China’s first pilot carbon market. She also served as president of the Joyce Foundation, a major US philanthropy, and as a writer, coproducer and vice president for international affairs for the Cousteau Society.

Betony Jones, senior adviser for workforce at the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Betony Jones started her career in the White House translating climate change science for the country’s most senior policymakers under President Clinton. Through that political lens, she saw the complex economy-wide nature of climate change as both the biggest obstacle to effective policymaking but also the greatest opportunity to build broad-based political support.

For the past 18 years, her career has focused on identifying job and equity impacts and economic development potential of climate action. Her ability to connect big picture ideas with pragmatic implementation strategies has been put to use designing and launching innovative energy efficiency programs; strategy consulting with foundations, nonprofit organizations, local and state governments, and energy utilities; and conducting groundbreaking research to support California’s ambitious climate policies.

Before starting Inclusive Economics, she spent four years as the associate director of the Green Economy Program at the University of California–Berkeley Labor Center. She has a BS degree in botany from the University of Michigan and earned her master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Peggy Brannigan, director of Global Environmental Sustainability, LinkedIn

Peggy Brannigan leads the implementation of LinkedIn’s aggressive climate commitment to achieve carbon negative, zero waste, and water positive operations by 2030. She manages a cross-company council to set strategy, track progress, and accelerate action. Her team is investing in green innovations in LinkedIn’s real estate design and construction, efficient workplace and data center operations, and sustainable procurement and employee travel. She implemented an internal carbon fee that incents LinkedIn departments to reduce their carbon emissions and provides grants to nonprofit organizations that are at the forefront of advancing environmental justice. Her team educates and mobilizes over 2,500 LinkedIn Go Green employee volunteers globally for green improvements at work, at home, and in their communities.

To scale impact beyond LinkedIn’s own operations, Brannigan’s team collaborates with the product and engineering teams to instill sustainability solutions in LinkedIn’s products and online platform. This helps green job seekers with green employers, helping professionals build green skills through LinkedIn Learning, and sharing useful data insights about trends in the growing green economy from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph. She earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business with a public management certificate. She is a green building FitWel Ambassador and has certifications in Global Reporting Initiative corporate responsibility reporting and Zero Waste. Prior to LinkedIn, she worked in Europe for 12 years promoting sustainability in roles at the US Department of State and the International School of Amsterdam.

Event Q & A

What career paths are accessible for people within the traditional energy sector and those who work outside the industry?

When a job seeker wants to transition into a green job, the seeker can take one of two common paths. Some professionals and some technical workers may be able to transfer their skills easily to a green company. Using tools such as LinkedIn’s Career Explorer can reveal how a worker’s current skills could make the worker a good fit for a different role at one of these companies.

For workers who would like to update their skills portfolio for the green industry, community colleges are an excellent source for worker training and employer access. When workers update their skills to work with new, green technology, they are more likely to earn higher wages while also helping to improve water or energy efficiency—two major ways any job can become a green job. This type of upskilling is especially common in technical or mechanical roles but is not limited to manufacturing. Rework America Alliance’s Job Progression Tool can show pathways to higher earning positions for workers without a four-year degree and provide a list of institutions of education that offer relevant credentials.

Finally, taking a broad look at how all roles can support a greener economy is crucial to creating lasting change. Many jobs are not labeled as sustainable or green but still make a positive impact. For instance, people who work in housing, both in construction and in tenant advocacy, can support those who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as people who experience flooding or extreme weather events. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report that details the ways climate change affects different populations including those who are low income, minority, 65 and older, or have less than a high school diploma as their highest level of education.

Lack of education and credentialing can be a barrier for workers entering into a new field. What are some entry-level positions that provide access to career ladders?

Registered apprenticeships are a great option for workers who want to work in the green economy and need new skills to do so but also need to have an income. Since registered apprenticeships are “earn-and-learn” opportunities, workers do not need to take a gap in pay during the transition. Electricians, pipefitters, and iron workers are just a few of the roles that could place a worker in the green economy. Many such roles enable the worker to start as a technician with a clear path to higher-paying, higher-responsibility jobs.

For workers not interested in working with their hands, other occupations such as technical and computer-based positions can offer opportunities. Data skills can propel workers from jobs focused on measurement to reporting and risk-analysis-based roles. Using online platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning can help workers or job seekers gain micro credentials, like a LinkedIn Badge, that are earned through a free or low-cost training course.

Community colleges provide affordable training to adults who want to supplement or complete previous education. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, most community college students attend part-time, either earning formal credit or auditing courses. Connecting students to these resources can be a vital step to achieving financial stability in the green industry. Tools such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Rework Community Insights Monitor provide regional training options to help job seekers move into new positions.

How should education support the green jobs sector in a way that fosters skills needed for jobs today and for jobs that don’t yet exist?

As it does for many industries, education can support a new generation of workers by encouraging students to be creative, curious, and innovative. New ideas, discoveries, and technology will continue to shape our economy and our environment. However, many jobs in the green economy will be similar to jobs that exist today and have existed for years. Trade industries and manufacturing are huge players in the green economy. The skills for roles in these positions may change, but a balance of fresh perspective from students and experience from workers within the industry can lead to new ways to increase efficiency.

In higher education, growing and strengthening employer partnerships will help students find roles that fit their skills and interests. It is important to listen to the needs of employers and the needs of students and workers to create high-performing partnerships.

What are examples of communities collaborating across sectors to increase green jobs in number and accessibility?

Understanding how local communities and states are addressing climate change can help scale initiatives. In 2022, WorkingNation is highlighting examples of success in a variety of industries across the country. Learning about success stories in, for example, Louisiana, Colorado, Arkansas, and Illinois can help community groups and governments learn how they might work together to improve opportunities in the green economy.

What data exist on green jobs and what improvements can be made to existing data sources, such as O*NET, to better capture the breadth of green jobs?

Demand for green talent is increasing, and so is demand for data on these roles. As the industry shifts and grows, new definitions will be necessary to accurately capture the breadth of the green economy. Information on how a job contributes to the industry is important. For instance, some jobs may be updated classifications for existing roles, some may be new positions at existing employers, and some may be positions in new companies with a more sustainable product or service than previously existed. Encouraging organizations to collect more accurate data on their roles can build momentum and exemplify how existing government data collection could improve.

Access to this information is critical. For example, LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills report describes how workers and employers are talking about green skills and green jobs.

How is remote working impacting the green economy?

The uptick in remote workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to stick around. There is not consensus on the full impact of remote work on the environment. However, the decline in the number of commuters did reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides excreted from cars, which likely improved air quality.

Remote work was made possible largely through reliable broadband infrastructure. However, many rural and some urban communities do not have access to broadband. A good broadband infrastructure is necessary for remote work and learning opportunities to exist across all communities.

Have you seen anyone start that skills-mapping process from the current fossil fuel jobs to the energy transition/infrastructure building?

It is important to consider a job seeker’s whole experience, skills, and interest. Skills mapping is a process of identifying existing skills and matching them with roles in other job functions. This is often done within an organization, but there are tools that review this material with a broader view. Using tools such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Occupational Mobility Explorer can reveal skills overlaps between current and goal roles. Other tools such as the Rework America Alliance’s Job Progression Tool can show pathways to higher-earning positions.

Event Transcript

Stuart Andreason: Good afternoon and good morning to everyone. Thank you for joining today at the Atlanta Fed's Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity’s Ask Us Anything series. Today, we're going to talk about skill development and the growth of the green economy and green jobs. We're going to give attendees just a minute to cycle in and then we'll get started, but we're really happy that you're here today. Just give us a minute to get going and we're excited to get started for the day.

I will remind everyone that in this series, we want it to be highly conversational; we want the attendees to help drive the discussion. We'll start discussion with our panelists but be thinking about the questions and topics that you're interested in learning more about, both now and as you hear them. You'll see in your webinar toolbox, there's a Q&A, either at the bottom or the top of your screen, that will be how we'll engage in audience discussion today. Please start to share ideas, and thoughts, and questions that you have in that Q&A discussion. We'll be using it to lead the discussion that we have after some opening remarks and comments from our panelists.

We'll go ahead and get started. I, again, thank you all for joining us today. We're really excited to have three experts on the green economy, on job opportunities that are popping up in the green economy, and we're excited to explore how people can build skills and where there are opportunities for people to build skills in a growing segment of the economy. Just a reminder, the Atlanta Fed's Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity is part of our community development function where we think about how to build opportunities for low- and middle-skill workers, and how to promote economic mobility and resilience largely through interventions, such as education, training, and employment. Our hope is that, through the work that we do, through the Community Reinvestment Act as well as through our responsibilities to help support and align with the Federal Reserve's broader goals of promoting maximum employment and stable prices, we think about how we make the economy open to broader groups. The community development functions really think about that, particularly for low- and moderate-income workers, which is where our work fits in.

I will remind everyone that today this is part of our convening function. The views that you'll hear today are those of the presenters, and the panelists, and the people in the audience that'll participate in the discussion. They're not necessarily the views of the Atlanta Fed or the Federal Reserve System. With that though, the reason that we're having our discussion today is because the green economy is really growing at a fast rate, understanding how states and localities can take advantage of funding in the green economy, important opportunities, opportunities for workers, and in this webinar we are really hoping that we can understand what people are seeing, what experts are seeing as opportunities in the green economy and what constitutes a green job, and how we can improve strategies for skill development that ideally increase opportunities for workers and help employers find the talent and skills that they need. We're lucky today to be joined by three experts. We're joined by Peggy Brannigan, who's the director of Global Environmental Sustainability at LinkedIn, by Paula DiPerna, who's a special adviser to CDP North America and to WorkingNation, and by Betony Jones, who's a senior adviser for Workforce at the US Department of Energy.

Betony, Paula, and Peggy, please go ahead and join us. I'm excited to join you guys to the conversation today. We're going to start with some short opening remarks. Peggy, first off, I've got a question for you, but I also want you to take a little bit of time to talk about your role, how you've gotten to your role at LinkedIn. Also, I want to start with you to hear how LinkedIn has seen growth in the green economy. What have you seen in your guys' data? What are opportunities that you guys see coming up?

Peggy Brannigan: Thank you, Stuart, and hello, everybody. So exciting to be here. I lead global environmental sustainability at LinkedIn. What that means is I really have two jobs. The first is to make sure our own buildings, and data centers, and supply chain, are operating with excellence so we're conserving energy, and water, and waste. The other part of my job, though, is really why I'm here today, which is how can we use the assets that LinkedIn has to help other companies and other individuals go green?

One of the assets that LinkedIn has is a whole lot of data. It's all of our profiles, 810 million people's profiles, and everything that we know about the job histories, and the skills, and the geographies from that. Fifty-eight million companies are on our platform. Every week, about 50 million job seekers go in and look for work. We have invested quite a bit to have a taxonomy which lets us look at what are the green jobs that are emerging? What kinds of skills are the most in demand? In this city, what jobs are being posted versus what's the local labor market look like? Do they have the skills? All of that kind of stuff. That's what I'm here to share with you today.

In one sentence, it's basically good news. If you're interested in green work and you think about green work more broadly than just my job title, which is director of sustainability, those jobs are growing, but more importantly there are many other jobs that didn't used to be considered green five years ago but now, when employers are posting those kind of normal jobs on our site, the employers are looking for people who have green skills, because they want them to be done in a green way.

You think about building maintenance, fleet manager, sales rep. Basically what our data at an anonymous level is showing us is that globally there's this massive greening of the economy. Occupations, industries, et cetera, are going green. It's because of government regulations, it's because of market forces, clean energies getting cheaper. Then it's because of demand from investors, and customers, and employees that say, "Hey, businesses, you need to tackle climate change, and you need to open up opportunities for us to do our work in a green way."

The one big thing I want to highlight for everyone, it's sort of a key takeaway, is the demand for green skills and green talent, people who can do green work, is growing faster than the supply of people with the green skills who could do that work. When we project out, there's going to be about a 2 percent gap, which is significant when you're talking about the global economy. There's an opportunity, both for getting people skilled and trained, and also for people to move into jobs where they can do meaningful green work.

One last thing I'll highlight in terms of the energy sector in the United States, in the last five years, the number of renewables and environment jobs increased 237 percent compared to just 19 percent for oil and gas jobs. We think next year the number of renewable jobs on our platform's going to outnumber oil and gas jobs in total on the platform for the first time. I'll leave it there.

Andreason: Wonderful, thank you so much. I think that one of the things that's interesting is that these are touching many different sectors.

Brannigan: Yes.

Andreason: These are not just one slice of a smaller economy. It touches many different occupational jobs and industries. I now want to turn to Paula. Again, Paula, tell us a little bit about yourself, but also, what do you consider in an expanded understanding of green jobs? Why is it important that we take a more expanded view of what the green economy is and what green economy jobs are, as we think about some of the growth that Peggy just talked about? Oh, and it wouldn't be '22 or a webinar if we didn't say "You're on mute."

Paula DiPerna: "You're on mute." Right, I heard that it just gives people time to collect their thoughts. Anyway, thank you so much for having me and for doing this. Peggy, that was a great introduction. I've been involved with environmental issues my whole life. I used to work for Jacques Cousteau as a writer. Then I ran a foundation. Then I became involved in pioneering carbon markets, and now I'm involved with environmental disclosure and strategic environmental investing.

In the course of all that, I've always felt that there was a constant argument or trade-off that there was a school of thought that said, "Yeah, environmental protection's important, but economic growth is more important." And the opposite, that we have to protect the environment at all costs. I became aware that we needed a reconciling agent between that permanent conflict, and I've come around to really being committed and sure that the only reconciling agent is jobs creation. And that, if the public does not believe that environmental protection can help them stabilize their livelihood, and stabilize their family, and stabilize their economic future, they will not embrace it to the degree to which it's an imperative.

That's not just a popular movement, it's a fact that environmental demands are only increasing. The biggest driver really is environmental facts, environmental science, which I can get into in a minute. I started something some years ago called the Jobs and Environment Institute. One of the things that I vividly remember, we were trying to canvass the companies in our seven-state area that might be considered green companies. We found this company in Indiana, which was...its primary product was highly efficient glass, energy-efficient glass. But there was nothing in its name or its business profile or anything whatsoever that would force it to jump out as a green company. It made me think, "Wow, energy-efficient glass, is that a green industry or is it just a glass industry? What makes it greener? The energy-efficiency piece?" To answer your question, the green economy is driven by these environmental imperatives, which are requiring at the top level, more and more energy efficiency, then more water efficiency, then some of the other resources. People don't really appreciate the size of this.

In 2019, the so-called green industry had sales of $650 billion, that was 25 times the sales of Walmart and two and a half times the sales of Apple; that was pre-COVID. It's everywhere in the economy and it's being driven by the need to really become efficient with the most rare of assets; the planet is only one. I think what's happening now is that the economy is greening because the idea has finally come home that there's never going to be more water. The climate is changing, trees are imperative to hold down water, hold down soil. Anyone who’s had a flooded driveway like I have recently knows what I'm talking about. We just have to even rethink all of our driveways, public driveways, private driveways, because that rain is coming heavily. Anyway, I'll leave it there, but thanks again for doing this.

Andreason: Thank you so much, Paula. Now Betony, even again to build on this, you're at the Department of Energy and a lot of what you've been working on is actually helping to think of ways and start programs that are capturing major investments, capturing job opportunities, capturing training, and linking those to major investments in energy. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the programs that you've been working to stand up, what you've been seeing, and also how you ended up doing this at the Department of Energy?

Betony Jones: Yeah. I came to this work with a similar realization of what Paula just described. My first job out of college was working on climate science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and realized that although addressing climate change is a moral imperative, we had to present it as an opportunity, an opportunity for business, for economic development, for quality job creation, and that if people could experience that themselves, that would help build support and political will for the more aggressive climate policies that we need.

I left DC 20+ years ago and have spent most of my career just in the field, trying to demonstrate that we can address climate change and create good quality jobs, and save businesses' money. Building that will and engagement for these solutions, running programs, working on workforce development initiatives, and ultimately doing research at UC–Berkeley, and from there consulting and working with a lot of cities across the country and also state agencies to connect equity goals, workforce development goals, climate goals, engage with labor unions, make it very real on the ground. With that experience, I went into the Department of Energy. DOE and the federal government generally is extremely focused on infrastructure right now. I've been saying for years that the climate legislation we're going to get is going to be called an infrastructure bill and voila, this is the largest investment in climate action and infrastructure to decarbonize our economy in the history of the United States. This is enormously significant. Department of Energy has $62 billion across 72 different programs, 60 of which are completely new to pilot and not just do the R&D, but to demonstrate and deploy technologies on hydrogen, the hydrogen economy, geothermal district energy networks, carbon capture, battery manufacturing, clean energy supply chain, grid resilience.

These are new and interesting and really critically important carbon-reducing technologies to add on to what we've already seen: solar, wind, offshore wind, energy efficiency. We're really thinking about infrastructure in a bigger way. When we think about the green economy, we think about infrastructure, and when we think about infrastructure, we think about jobs. Within the federal government, under this administration, we're really pulling every single lever that we have to make sure that the jobs created by these investments are good family-sustaining jobs.

We're trying to expand unionization across the energy sector, the construction sector, the manufacturing sector, all of which are the critical sectors to reach the goals of a carbon neutrally economy by 2050. Improving job quality is really a critical component of workforce development because good jobs attract talented, skilled, and trained workers. It's that demand signal. Good pay, and benefits, and good work pull workers into jobs. When the job quality of working in a manufacturing plant is no better or in some ways worse than a job you could get at a Starbucks, it's going to be really hard to attract, and retain, and signal to the workforce that investing in skill development has a return on investment that it's worth investing in training.

We're really looking at how to improve job quality, particularly recognizing that infrastructure jobs, most of them, don't require a four-year or professional degree, that the jobs in construction, the jobs in manufacturing, are really just basic apprenticeable occupations. We need electricians, we need operating engineers, we need iron workers, we need pipe fitters. These are traditional occupations; registered apprenticeship is an earn-as-you-learn-model. It's an extremely well-established system of making sure that workers in these critical occupations have the best training and are able to deal with the most current and emerging technology.

What is really helpful about the opportunities here is that registered apprenticeship is an earn-as-you-learn training model. From an equity perspective, you don't need to take on debt, you don't need to have a wealthy family, you don't need to forgo wages in order to do the training and education to get a good family-sustaining, planet-saving job. What's really needed from my perspective, working at the federal government, is the infrastructure locally to support and diversify pipelines into those jobs, to build the relationships at the local level so that city sustainability departments are talking to workforce development departments and talking to community-based organizations, and employers, and labor unions, to really strengthen that connective tissue to make this work, to make sure that these are good jobs, but that they're also accessible to people underrepresented in good career track employment. I'll stop there.

Andreason: Great. Thank you so much. I'm going to pause right now and remind members of the audience that this is your time. We have this unscripted to hear some questions for you and get answers that you're looking for. We've already got a few coming in and we're going to get to those, but I also wanted to just remind people go ahead and use the Q&A function; we're going to get to the questions that you have. I'm going to start with one question that we had that I think actually builds off the conversation that we just started about. How can people that are working in a state or a community better find the availability of green jobs that they have in their community?

We've got a couple questions that point to data that's available from O*NET [] on green occupations. They know that a lot of the jobs that are mentioned there don't feel like green work. I think that we can probably all reiterate that some of the work that happens is about the product rather than the actual occupation or the things that are done in that job. Where can people turn to figure out and understand what's happening in their community? Peggy, you might have some ideas on what you've seen in some of LinkedIn's analysis of the green economy, or Paula, even get getting back to finding some of those glass manufacturers in a community that aren't there to do their job, or aren't there to actively act in the green economy, but they're producing something. How can people find those? How can they navigate what's happening in their community?

DiPerna: Peggy, go ahead.

Brannigan: I think you had a few questions there and maybe we'll start with, what is a green job? We started asking that question at LinkedIn a couple years ago. Is it a job that has a title like mine where it's obvious? Or is it a job that is with a company whose product is green, like Tesla, Impossible Burger? You can think of other examples where you might have a regular function like in HR, or finance, or sales, but because the product you're selling is green, you are advancing progress through your work. Or, is a green job one with a company that has great green credentials? They're a B Corp [], for example.

We have landed on another way to define green jobs. We basically think a green job is one where it is requiring at least two, three, four green skills in order to be performed. The reason we're looking at the work this way is because the truth is whatever job you have can become a green job if you make the decisions and take the actions when you're performing that job that produce green results and if you're applying green skills, and so we have built out a huge taxonomy around nine out of our 35,000 skills that you can find on our site. We've had an exhaustive two-year process to tag which ones are green. Anyway, where you can go to look for some of that work, this is a preview of coming attraction, next month, for Earth Month we’ll be launching a campaign about the earth is hiring and you can go on our platform and look for green work and it'll pop up, tens of thousands of jobs that have that broader definition. Beyond that, I think there's just a lot of new opportunity opening where you wouldn't think it is.

The fastest-rising skill this past year on our platform was green fashion design, right? It's partly because customers are demanding it more and it's part of a brand's enhancement. The automotive sector is just exploding now because with green work opportunities...because all the brands now this past year have announced they're going to be producing a whole slate of vehicles on the EV side. To your question of where to look for it, think about what your skill set is in your current occupation, and how you might transfer those skills into a company with a product or a function where you can perform them in a green way.

DiPerna: I can just amplify that and add to that a bit. A couple of things. One, the community colleges are incredibly plugged into this idea of workforce training, and green training, and transitioning skills, and certification. The CFA, which certifies auditors, is now putting out a special certification for carbon accounting that may be esoteric, but every single affinity association, industrial association, the driveway pavers of America, they all have a green component now. If we think about the employer, and you think, "Oh, gee, I'd like to work for LinkedIn." Go on the LinkedIn website, well, with LinkedIn you could just go on LinkedIn, but point being, you go on that website, you search ESG, environment, social G or sustainability, and up will pop all of this stuff they're doing. Then you hit careers, and you'll see all these jobs at LinkedIn in its green window. That is true with almost any company that has a website now.

It's much more present than people realize. I wasn't kidding about the driveways of America, Association of America, because my driveway did flood and the local landscape person came in and he was all over this. He knew exactly the problem, he had been seeing it everywhere, they were already thinking about the kind of piping that they could bring in that would take the water off, away from everybody's plants. There's still a gap and there's still a way to go, but I think local resources, unions are very involved, the AFL-CIO, SEIU [Service Employees International Union], they're all green.

Then, just a little plug for WorkingNation, and I can put the link eventually in the chat, we've done six or seven state studies now where we actually identify companies within a given state that are considering themselves green or have a green function.

That has been really eye-opening. Arkansas and Illinois, and Iowa's coming up next, Mississippi coming up next, very interesting things in fields you wouldn't imagine, say for example, in rice farming, in more managing of the flooding of the field, which you need to do to grow the rice. If you really steward the water more properly, or more efficiently, you don't get as many bacteria in the field, and then you don't get as much methane emission, which is a big climate change problem. There's a skill which is really a hardware skill for a rice farmer to manage water and have it be more efficiently distributed, which is direct benefit to the climate, which maybe that farmer had no idea. The only other thing I would say is, this is not only a jobs creation machine, this is a jobs preservation machine because if we don't protect some of these resources, something like rice farming could become more difficult to maintain because it would be a constant conflict between the methane and the rice. If you get rid of that conflict, you can have rice. It is very important to preserve some of the labor sectors that exist now. People are always worried about, well, what about coal miners if we're not going to mine coal? That's a direct question and there may be no direct answer, no direct switch for a coal miner, but there are other jobs that use coal mining skills. It isn't always just a negation or a transfer.

Andreason: That's actually a question that we've got coming in, not even necessarily in coal, but a number of places, one including in Texas. Betony, maybe this is a question for you, but have you seen programs that are targeted specifically at transition strategies for people from one end energy production to another?

Jones: Yeah, I mean, just to answer it with a specific illustrative example, and then maybe more broadly. Kern County in California is the highest oil-producing county in California. It's also the county with the highest concentration of wind and solar development, and so much development actually that new apprenticeship programs for the workers required to build new wind and solar, utility scale solar projects, they had to train more people. In California, those projects tend to be union, so they trained a whole bunch, they offered a lot of new apprenticeship openings for electrical workers and operating engineers, carpenters, laborers, and iron workers. A lot of people who see declining work in the oil extraction industry pivoted to some of those apprenticeship programs. Because they were union, the compensation was more equivalent to the compensation and benefits that they were getting in the oil industry.

To answer it more generally, what's exciting about these investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law is that many of them utilize exactly the same skills as the fossil industry. If you look at green hydrogen, that is a direct transition for workers in the natural gas industry or working in natural gas power plants, or the distribution system for natural gas. The same with geothermal, uses a lot of plumbers and pipe fitters, and boilermakers, and these same occupations that are deeply engaged in the fossil fuel industry. The unionized construction sector, half of their work is in fossil fuels, but the amount of infrastructure that we need to build to decarbonize the economy could create the replacement jobs or transition jobs for a lot of those workers. One thing that I think is important for us to do is the skills mapping. How these clean energy jobs map to the fossil jobs and try to minimize to the extent possible the need for retraining or whole new jobs. The more that we shift away from, not shift away from, but add to wind and solar with some of these more industrial solutions, the more opportunities there are for fossil fuel workers to engage in the clean economy.

DiPerna: Can I just jump in? That is a critical point, this alignment of training, and skills, and transfer, and location. This is something the United States does not believe in particularly much, industrial policy, but we do need an industrial policy regarding the greening of the economy. This is something that workforce and community development, the part of the Fed that is focused on that, that would be a critical service, even a pilot in a given state. How can we line up all these pieces? Because the public's been talked to about green jobs for some time, and a lot of people say they never materialized, but for example, Illinois has the goal of 1 million electric vehicles. That's an enormous number of cars, but that's still only the cherry on the cake. There's a layer below, which is all the workers that need to sell the cars, build the cars, put the software in the cars, all the workers to put the charging stations, and the mapping of where's a tremendous, it's like a moonshot, and we're only focused on the actual car. Lining up those layers in the cake is a critical thing. That's really should be a central objective of people who are around this topic, who have some alignment function.

Andreason: These are great thoughts. One of the things that I think is really interesting, and it's just important to note is that a lot of these are, it seems like there are some good opportunities for people to make direct transitions. These are almost like the...a lot of people may not change what they do, but they'll change who they work for, or what they're building.

A little bit aligned, but also a little bit different, I think this is probably for all three of you. We've got a couple of questions about what are some of the table stakes that people need for the green economy. Particularly, let me also frame it in just a second way. What are some of the skills that are critical for this, but also what are the things that people can do that are, particularly lower-wage workers, workers on the front line that may not have a direct connection to this, what are the skills that they should pursue? How can they make career pivots? We've even got one similar, but different question. Someone that works in a library that's interested in getting involved in green economy work. What are the things that they can do? What are the things that they should do, and what are the opportunities that exist that are going to be the fastest entry points for this? How do we minimize? What are things that people can do that just want to make a career pivot with minimal skill development? Then what are some critical skill developments? All three of you've got different ways that you've seen this.

That's actually like a perfect moment to combine a couple of questions that we got, and we might want to kind of pause on these for a couple of minutes, but we got two that are very similar to that. One is that a significant amount of workforce money comes from the federal government. Now if we talk about kind of how that actually works, that then gets shipped to states, who ships it to local regions and areas that then administer programs? One of the questions was specifically how localities? So not the federal government, and the federal government in the recent Biden executive order has encouraged federal programs to find ways to eliminate racial disparities, but how do localities actually do that? Because that's part of their charge. So local governments and local workforce boards and community action is part of that. And so we had a question on suggestions for local activities, both within the public workforce system but beyond. The other one that we had was from the employer perspective. What can employers do to change the way that they offer employment, that they have jobs that turn them more into opportunities that are longer term, that are better for workers and meet their needs as well? Why don't we start with the employer part, and once we've kind of been able to have the chance to talk about that, then let's move to the public side, to the local government and workforce board one, because there's a lot there. I don't want to put anyone on the spot, anyone want to jump in on employers?

Jones: I would say, for professional workers, the important thing is the networking and the volunteering getting a little bit of experience. But I actually think that library workers are already involved in the green economy. If you think about climate change from a resiliency perspective, those public institutions play, and we saw this during the COVID pandemic, play just a critical function for ensuring community resilience and taking care of people, making sure that elderly people are accounted for during heat waves. There's really a climate function in almost any job out there, either on the mitigation side to reduce emissions, or reduce waste, or reduce water usage, or on the adaptation and resilience side. If you're a tenant rights attorney, your work is related to climate change because you're keeping people in their homes even as they're unable to pay their electricity bill because of the cost during the heat wave. The impacts of climate change and the opportunities to both address it and support vulnerable communities in the face of it, it touches nearly every occupation out there. Doing your part in the green economy, it doesn't always require a career shift.

DiPerna: Yeah. I can build on that too. I'm a shameless believer in librarians and research so I love to see librarians stay in library work, but that's a communications function really. In the library, there's always research that can be done and publicized talks that can be sponsored. But for somebody who really wants to change from library work, there's media, there's communications, there's the communications within the companies. The key word, I know there's LinkedIn, but you can actually Google, and I've done this with connection with WorkingNation. You can actually go on Google and say, "Green jobs, my..." and put your state. Green jobs, Georgia, green'd be amazed what comes out. It's unbelievable what comes out. Indeed, jobs listing, companies. You can Google the top 10 employers in your state and see who they are. Go on their website and you'll see their ESG focus, and you can call them. You can go to a hardware store and look up LED light bulbs and see who makes them, and how close you live to the person.

That word efficiency is, energy efficiency in particular and water efficiency, is like a stand-in word for sustainability. Most people don't put sustainable on their product, they'll put 70 percent more efficient lighting. That's a sustainable light bulb. That's a lighting tool that is based on environmental issues. You can really do a lot of detective work very easily, but it's also true that you can stay in your current position. I think it's confusing for people. It's not only the greening of the work, it's the greening of the employment. It's the employment that's greening first, which is greening because of the imperatives and the profitability of shifting away and shifting toward more efficiency regulations. The SEC, for example, is going to be requiring environmental disclosure internationally. I just read this morning that Carbon Trust is set up in China to put a carbon footprint label on every product sold in China. Now think of that, the people who make those products are going to have to answer to their customers, and that doesn't only mean fancy little products. It means everything. It's a detective job and it's not undoable.

Brannigan: Thank you. That's right, and that's what I was talking about before with just going onto LinkedIn and looking for green work. I think I can answer a little bit more specifically in terms of the skills, which was part of what you were asking, Stuart. What I would suggest, and I think the other panelists have said it in different ways, is think first about where you would most logically fit, because it's the type of work you like to do and it's the type of skills that you have. Like, what's your superpower? If it's storytelling, then that's an area where sustainability really needs to get a lot better. We've tried to tell this story of importance through doom and gloom and through cost savings or whatever, but there's a huge need to get more people on board with the sense of urgency and with the real opportunities that are available.

If storytelling is your forte, then there's a whole avenue of types of jobs you could look for in corporate, in NGO, in government work. If science is what you love, as Paula was saying about efficiency, I think it's not just energy efficiency, although that's a huge area of growth. Those are the types of jobs you can begin at the ground level and then just move up. But also water, or water management in general. It's a crisis of its own. One out of every 10 people in the world lacks access to safe water. Here in the United States, there's this huge retirement wave happening, where all these senior people who know how to do wastewater management, and recycled water, and all of these really important things, are retiring. There are not enough people going in the pipeline, and those are attractive jobs, and you can go in from the ground. Sort of science then.

I know there's going to be a steadily rising demand for data skills. How do you measure, how do you report, how do you analyze risk, all of that? If business is what you love, we need people who can make the business case—why the investment should be made in this thing that's going to help a company, not only raise some revenue, but also improve their footprint. In terms of where you can go, I'll just add a few other ideas besides the community colleges and universities. I did some of my training online, Coursera, uDemy, LinkedIn Learning, SME Climate Hub. There's a whole bunch of really good training online, and you can get all kind of certificates for it. I just wanted to add those thoughts.

Andreason: This is a great jumping point for a question that just came in, especially as you talk about evolutions in delivering training online. “What do we need to do to have our education systems ready to help with this?" Particularly, I'd love to ask a question of what you think the next three to five years are going to bring in green jobs. But let's stick on this question of what education systems need to do, just to be ready to help train people for those jobs that are going to be created in the near future. I think that's probably for all of you. Let's start there. What do education systems need to do to help support the debate for some rapid change?

Jones: Relationships with employers are...that's really important and that's very local place-based and place specific work…so that, as we're training people through the community college system, colleges, universities, or registered apprenticeship, there's jobs on the other side. I think we learned a lot from the ARRA period, the American Recovery Act, of training a lot of people for jobs that did not materialize, and there's nothing more demoralizing or no bigger setback. When you engage with employers and you can calibrate the training to the actual demand in the labor market, then there's a much stronger assurance of job placement. One where that works really well is labor management partnerships. Again, to point to registered apprenticeships, it's inherently demand-driven where the openings for new apprentices are calibrated to those contractual relationships with employers to hire out of that program.

The assurance of job placement is really baked into that model. I think what's needed is there's sort of a stigma that's...It's more than a stigma. The best assurance of entering the middle class is a four-year college degree, but we need to make these other occupations as good and as prestigious and as well-paying with good benefits as the professional career paths in order to attract more workers into these critical occupations. The job quality and working with employers to attract and to think about how they attract and retain workers is as important as the training and education piece to push workers into these jobs.

DiPerna: The classic case really is in the heating ventilation and air-conditioning world, HVAC. That is a huge, huge employer in itself, but is also increasingly focusing on energy efficiency and air filtration. There are a number of cases where an ordinary worker who's handling "air filtration" on a regular basis, just regular maintenance, works for an employer. Through the employer that education is provided because, guess what, now it's not just air filtration in the hospital, it's air filtration to filter out coronavirus. In the course of doing that, you find out that if we improve our energy efficiency we not only get rid of coronavirus but we also save money, which we need because we're spending a lot more money on coronavirus.

It becomes a single hospital that is driving the change in the work focus and also clamoring for the training. Sometimes that training is really literally at the employer level. But on the macro question of the educational system, I think we're all at's a four-year degree, it's a two-year degree, it's a certificate. Everything that you would normally go for in your normal course of career planning applies, and that green skill overlay is not as different. I think we're all trying to say this in different ways. It's not as different as the skill that your superpower or your dream job is now. It's just figuring out where to go. Once you've got a foothold in the where, then the rest will follow, I'm pretty sure.

Now at the deeper community level, I leave that to you all to talk about in terms of a regional approach, or really literally community development linked to governmental incentives. That's a bigger topic, but alignment really is key there as Betony said earlier.

Brannigan: Yeah. I just want to say plus one to what each of you have shared. I think those are such important points. Then I'll flag, just looking at our data, there are some key critical skills that we don't have enough of in the population right now, that would go across many, many different types of jobs. One is in how to measure and report sorts of that data analysis, the accounting. Then another is sustainable supply chains, everything that has to do with how an organization manages their relationships with their vendors, because that is now the primary focus for people like me and other companies. It's best practice to really pay attention to your broader footprint, not just your own four walls, but the impacts that you're creating because of what you buy and the whole life cycle of those products, how much water and energy and waste was involved. It's again, a big demand for people with those skills and not enough people have them yet.

The third is in sort of a more specialized area, but ESG rating, ranking, reporting, measurements. Especially with the SEC here in the United States saying, soon companies are going to have to be really reporting with audited verifiable data on their impact. Just wanted to flag those.

Andreason: Actually, all of these are bringing up a broad question that I've been seeing brought up in a number of different ways. We're talking about big, big changes. How do we make sure that these are all accessible? How are we ensuring that there's diversity, equity, and inclusion in the growth of these industries? How do we make sure that there's equitable access and opportunity for people across many of the demographics that we would think about: age, race, gender, and even geography?

I'm going to try to tie in a question that's been coming up in our questions list, about the role that remote work is playing in the green economy. Are you seeing any specific trends in that? Is it a possibility that it's going to help rural markets or markets that have difficulty with transportation? There's a lot there, but I just want to open it up for everyone to talk about those.

Brannigan: I'll just tackle one piece of that, and that is the gender gap in the green economy, opportunities for women. We want to see the opportunities opening up equally for women and men. Right now, the statistic is that 62 women for every 100 men have green skills or are considered green talent. There's a pretty big difference, and it's something we want to keep our eye on and make sure that we're being mindful about how we support women.

It does tie into the remote work because for many women, if they have other responsibilities with the family, being able to work remotely with not a long commute and more flexibility in their schedules would make them eligible, or able to jump into work situations that they couldn't if they had to be in an office every day.

The other thing also is in terms of education level. Right now, more of the green talent on our platform is with folks with the four-year degrees. That's partly because of the demographics on our platform, but I think it's also partly because there's work to be done there, to make it more equitable to access.

DiPerna: I can jump in. One amazing resource the country has for talent, and for diversity, and inclusion are the historically black colleges [HBCUs]. The ag science schools that those colleges are renowned for, the business schools, they're all in a leadership position in their states, very often and certainly in the ag sciences, which is of course also rural. There's a whole treasure trove of expertise and leadership right there.

Back to infrastructure, the number one thing to do, it seems to me, even before greening is the broadband. Where I live, the carpenters who are going to put solar cells on people's roofs, they apologize to you in advance to say, "Don't think I'm not going to do your job. But I can't always call you because in the winter I have to go to the bottom of my driveway to make a call and it's too cold. If I don't call you back, don't think I'm not coming." Until we solve that broadband problem nationwide, we can't really do all that we're talking about and that will dictate the balance of remote work. In terms of what Peggy's been saying, mapping, emergency response, moving supplies, prepositioning supplies where there's an extreme weather event predicted, all this big data, data monitoring mapping stuff can be done from home. That is hugely, hugely important.

I guess the only thing I'd say about diversity, which is a philosophical one, is I just don't think there's any chance of social progress without diversity and inclusion. There's no progress without diversity of thought, without diversity of leadership, without racial diversity, ethnic diversity, gender diversity. All the diversities come together in one gigantic diversity, which is diversity of thought and experience. If you don't have that, you will not have an excellent result. I think we've lived through that absence and we need to reverse it. I don't think the green jobs are any more or less susceptible to an absence of diversity, but now that we're focused on it, we could certainly put the two together in a way that we have not done before.

Brannigan: Well said.

Jones: Absolutely, well said. I just want to add a couple thoughts to that. There's some real persistent challenges with occupational segregation. I think how we think about addressing that, not from a skills' gap perspective, but understanding the systemic barriers or the broken systems that are keeping and sustaining those trends, will lend itself to how we fix it and how we think about not fixing people but fixing systems.

Strengthening partnerships with HBCUs and minority-serving institutions is critical for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion on the professional side. On the trade side, preapprenticeship programs that really address and reduce those barriers to employment. Is there access to transportation? Is there access to childcare? Do people have counseling and mentoring services? How can we systematically reduce the barriers to improve access to these opportunities?

You can't just do that through skills training alone. There's really other support services and partnerships between organizations in order to provide those wraparound services to reduce barriers and improve access.

Andreason: We are coming to a close. We've had a couple of dozen really great questions come in. Some are really specific. I just want to say some of them are very functional questions that we're not going to be able to answer today, but we will work both with the panelists and with others to get you guys some answers, including things like how do you braid workforce funding with new infrastructure investment funding to create opportunities. We will help connect you to the right people for that.

In rapid fire because we are down to our last couple minutes, I want to give each of you, the three of you, a chance to just answer a quick question. If people were to do one thing, if they were to reach out to a new partner today, what one suggestion do you have for people as they think about ways to create a new opportunity for someone in this space?

Brannigan: I want to make sure I understand the question. If we were to suggest to the audience, if they were going to do one thing today?

Andreason: That's right. Yep.

Brannigan: To find their niche in green, or to help someone?

Andreason: Yeah, find a new partner, try something new, or take a step. Where should someone look for some more information to take a first step?

Brannigan: Oh, so many things, but I'll just...I know we're in a time crunch. I think Betony, you mentioned earlier, it's always great to get experience in the nonprofit space. Maybe find a cause locally that you really care about and you can have a hands-on impact in some way. With climate change advancing so quickly, it's easy to despair and feel helpless, but it's a great feeling when you're aligning with an organization that's taking action and you can feel that you actually have some measurable part of making your neighborhood better than it was without your help. You'll learn a lot along the way.

DiPerna: Me, I would find the largest employer in my county and search their website until I hit the ESG button, and then call the CEO and say, "Can I come see you?"

Andreason: All right.

Jones: Those are both good suggestions. I'll just echo those.

Andreason: I want to thank everyone for joining today. Peggy, Betony, Paula, thank you for joining and sharing your thoughts, and thank you to everyone in the audience for all of the great questions that you all submitted. I hope that you've enjoyed the conversation as much as I have.

For those of the questions that we couldn't get to today, we will work to get things out to you all, share information and some resources that we've collected along the way, that hopefully address some of your questions. Thank you again for joining us. Thanks so much, and I hope that you all have a great rest of your day.