Making Green Work: Best Practices in Green-Collar Job Training

This guidebook of best practices in California green jobs consists of four well defined sections. 

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Oakland Apollo Alliance
Full Circle Fund
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Resource Type
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This guidebook of best practices in California green jobs consists of four well defined sections. The overview defines terminology and addresses the necessity of growth in green jobs. The case studies resulted from conducting interviews and examining training models across California to identify best practices in creating a green-collar job training program. Challenges are also addressed in the case studies. The third section is public policy and the support needed to continue the creation of green-collar jobs. The last section contains links to resources and organizations dedicated to creating this pathway. Although this was done in California only, lessons can be applied nationwide. Green-collar jobs are an important step for moving people from poverty to jobs with family sustaining wages. This document will continue to be updated and revised as policy changes occur and best practices are identified. The intended audiences are government officials that have the ability to fund green-collar jobs and workforce development providers that work with the population to create job training programs. The case studies are well organized, and details of successes and challenges are documented. NOTE: To access this free resource, register on the website with the option to continue to receive updates from the Ella Baker Center. Registration is free, and users can refuse the updates by unchecking the boxes.

What the experts say

This resource may be of value to the field of adult education as an example of the variety of green sector programs that can be developed, their various funding mechanisms, and the types of credentials they may contain. Its most significant features include a clear and consistent framework for describing programs and a very forthright portrayal of challenges/lessons learned. It is easy to flip through the publication, going from program to program, to compare features. This framework reinforces what programs developers need to address, for example, partnerships and funding, elements of curriculum, instructor,and target participants.

Although the programs described in the case studies, in which training is developed for low-income workers in green jobs, are all in California and use California (and federal) funding sources, some general themes emerge that can be useful to readers in other states. For example, partnerships involving public and private organizations are essential. The case studies describe how the partnerships work together to obtain the funding for the training and other services.

The multiple problems of the low-income trainees emerge as one theme: The need for “wrap-around” services (e.g., childcare, transportation), counseling (some clients had previous deviant behavior or criminal records), soft skills (e.g., how to interact in a work situation), life skills (e.g., financial literacy and nutrition), and basic skills instruction is clear. Funding for all these components was necessary in addition to the training dollars.

Another theme that emerges from the case studies was the difficulty in getting industries to hire the low-income workers after they had completed the training programs. Most of the studies were tentative in their evaluation reports, blaming the recession on the lack of hires in green jobs. However, some admitted that industries did not want to hire high-risk workers when other equally qualified workers who met the qualifications without the special programming were available.

The policy section that concludes the resource is valuable to any reader. For example, it discusses the importance of using government funding to provide incentives to industry (i.e., tax breaks) to hire the newly trained, low-income green workers. Funding for basic skills, life skills, and soft skills (e.g., communication in the workplace, showing up for work on time) must be integrated into the training program. Furthermore, wrap-around services must also be provided during training as well as during the transition to work life. The resource stresses that a holistic approach is needed to move high-risk individuals from poverty into the workforce.

The current effort to move at-risk people from poverty to self-sufficiency needs to be matched with green jobs that will help save the environment through technology such as the installation of solar panels. In most states these two efforts are not connected in policymaking and funding streams. The resource makes a good point that joining these efforts would bring people out of poverty to work in the new field of green jobs.

A note of caution: Making Green Work is a descriptive study of seven “clean energy” programs in California that focus on serving those who are most in need of secure employment. The study’s creators and funders are to be applauded for making this initial foray into an emerging sector and for also committing to updating this work. Its major limitation is that it has had to set the bar fairly low by focusing on “programs that have completed at least one year of successful operation” (p.5). This short timeline and insufficient or vague information on program success should make readers cautious about applying these “best practices” without further data.

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