A few weeks back on Sunday I was listening to This American Life on Vermont Public Radio, and within the context of the story line, the topic of what constitutes a ‘good career’ came up, the gist being that learning a trade in our new economy is on par with getting a degree in electrical engineering (like I did more than twenty years ago).
Based on what I’m seeing at GreenHomes America, and more generally in our industry and economy, I think the NPR folks are on to something real and substantial. The home performance category is creating jobs for engineers, for tradespeople, and for the office staff that support them. And when you consider the pent-up demand for home performance services, there is more work out there than GreenHomes can service, or that any of the existing home performance contractors can service right now. Energy-efficiency first, and then renewable energy down the road, we’re going to see a lot of new jobs created in this sector.
And these are good jobs! Unlike many white-collar jobs (engineers, accountants, marketers), these jobs in our industry are secure. They can’t be outsourced overseas. Homes need to be insulated and air-sealed here. High-efficiency heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment can only be installed onsite. Solar thermal systems get installed on our roofs. The work needs to be done right here, locally. And these are year-round positions, offering good benefits, long-term employment opportunities, and a skill set that will prove valuable for many years.
Especially in light of the recent volatility in our economy, I suspect many people are thinking differently about what a ‘good job’ is. If job security, learning a valuable skill that will be in high demand for many decades to come, steady income growth, and geographical diversity sound good, a trade job in home performance stacks up pretty well.
A generation ago, parents urged their kids into white-collar office jobs. Today, they may do well to consider a broader range of options, and “green-collar” looks pretty good.