Before we know it, the election countdown will be in full swing at the national and local levels. The cleantech industry may soon become a political football, with experts praising or vilifying particular companies, federal programs and more. During election season, people get polarized on issues and fall back on pithy sound bites. My sincere request is not to take that approach with the emerging cleantech industry, and not to fall for the ‘green jobs’ cost ‘blue jobs’ line. Here’s why.
Tens of thousands of cleantech innovators and their teams are advancing the state of the industry for everything from alternative power, to energy storage, to efficiency. These are all areas where we are making significant progress –in spite of an unclear energy policy – to pave the way toward a more sustainable and secure energy future. Part of that transition involves cleantech jobs, which have been called ‘green jobs’. And there’s some belief that these jobs come at the expense of other traditional or ‘blue jobs.’ I disagree. There is no competition between ‘green’ and ‘blue’ jobs; they are one and the same.
There is a phonebook’s worth of ‘green job’ titles, from the engineers and scientists developing and building new products, technologies and companies, to the frontline workers that are deploying these new products for residential, commercial and industrial customers, or the into the emerging smart grid. These workers have come from other sectors and are building a new foundation for our economy, bringing existing skills and learning new ones along the way. In Massachusetts, we have seen many unemployed or under-employed workers adapt their skill sets to deploy new cleantech solutions, creating a new career path – as solar installers, energy efficiency consultants and more. In the case of Digital Lumens, electricians who had previously installed traditional industrial lighting are now installing our Intelligent Lighting Systems, saving their customers money and expanding their skill sets.
And cleantech is the future – everyone’s future. If you do a survey of the more successful states and countries, you will find that those with aggressive green policies from the local to the state levels are doing better than others. Investing in new technologies and approaches – whether energy or computing or aerospace design – is an investment in our future. And that investment shouldn’t be seen as compromising our present or future; it is just the opposite.
I would like to suggest that we collectively resist the temptation to throw the cleantech football around this fall, especially with regard to jobs. Rather than assuming that green jobs are taking away blue jobs, take a moment to explore the interconnectedness of the two. They really are one and the same. And, a little unity could be a refreshing change this year.