For many students, life after high school means preparing for the job market. Whether it be a four-year or two-year college degree or certification in job training, continued education is often in service of getting as ready as possible for a career. In states, such as Iowa, a surprising growth area might encourage students planning their majors or career training plans to think outside the box. Or better yet, think about the outside.
“Green” jobs, defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as “jobs where a worker’s duties make the production process environmentally friendly or jobs which produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” are sprouting up all around the country as large organizations with complex infrastructures recognize the need to embrace alternative approaches to energy in everything from manufacturing to transportation.
The United States had more than 3.4 million green jobs in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with trade, education and health services being the highest employment areas within the category. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor no longer tracks green jobs specifically, due to budget cuts, other groups have picked up the slack of tracking the importance of green jobs, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which predicts millions of additional green jobs will be added by 2028.
Solar power leads the way, with 174,000 U.S. jobs in 2014 providing a 21 percent growth from 2013 and an 86 percent increase since 2010, but jobs abound around the country in areas ranging from wind and hydro power to alternative fuel cell development and biomass providing an employment boom. Iowa Workforce Development has created guidelines for green business and specifically lists jobs aimed at meeting the demands of green companies across a variety of job areas.
Many of these jobs have sprung up to help states comply with the federal requirements in the Clean Power Plan, which aims at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels in the next 15 years. Eco-friendly companies that have risen to the challenge aren’t just looking for scientists and engineers, though, as many seek employees with marketing, accounting, and communications skills, as well as those trained in manufacturing and installation.
The growth of this sector also provides opportunities for entrepreneurially-minded graduates to create sustainable businesses, with the U.S. Small Business Administration providing guidance for green businesses, including information about certification, grants, and loans.