Going green is causing the job landscape to grow

Contributing ColumnistMay 5, 2014 

Earth Day, a day dedicated to environmental awareness, reducing waste and pollution, and taking better care of our planet's resources, was April 22.

Environmental concerns extend from individual households to the political arena as well as the business sector. The growing population has increased demands on energy consumption and triggered businesses to encourage innovative thinking to maintain or increase profits and sustain resources.

"Going green" has been an ongoing trend for more than 40 years so it is no wonder it's influence on the job landscape is growing.

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported over 3.1 million associated jobs in the Green Good and Services survey. The O*net or Onetonline.org is the nation's largest database for occupational information and has classified 45 new and emerging green careers in addition to 64 green careers with increased demand and 62 green careers that require enhanced skills or credentials.

What are green jobs and how might they affect your career options? Green jobs are divided by the BLS into two categories: output and process. Green careers related to output are those that produce green goods and services meant to improve the environment or conserve natural resources; such as natural and organic products, and air or water filtration systems. Process related green careers use environmentally friendly production processes; such as careers in sustainability. Sustainability professionals help organizations develop processes that reduce waste and utilize renewable energy sources.

Green careers can be found in almost any industry including construction, manufacturing, natural resources, information, health and education, and the business sector. Examples of green careers are very diverse and range from technical positions like installation workers or boiler technicians to highly specialized fields such as chemical or nuclear engineers and wildlife biologists.

How will green jobs affect you? Watch for trends in your industry as increased knowledge or credentials may be required in your field. Even if you are not in a so-called "green" job your workplace may give incentives for finding more environmentally friendly work practices or switch your record keeping methods to electronic forms that reduce the carbon footprint (and the bottom line). You may also need to increase your knowledge of government standards and regulations or be subject to new evaluations and inspections.

If you are interested in preparing for or transitioning into a green career, research the requirements for your field. Many green careers require a degree in science fields but some only require trade schools or certifications. An apprenticeship that follows federal guidelines for training is another route for some careers. The U.S. Department of Labor has an excellent online excellent guide and resource for preparing for a green career. It is directed at women, but is applicable to anyone and can be found at http://1.usa.gov/Q801BI.

Once you have secured the proper training and qualifications you can begin your green career search. Solid technical skills should be complemented with soft skills, such as communication, leadership and problem-solving. The techniques for building a résumé are the same as for most other industries, but make sure to use key green "buzz" words such as sustainability, renewable energy, carbon-footprint, cap-and-trade, and environmentally conscious.

Make sure your certifications or specialized trainings are included on your résumé. Especially if you are new to the field or transitioning from another career, some of the most basic training like "hazardous materials" can make a difference.

CNN Money reported in 2010 that there were at least 80 green online job boards. Some job boards specific to green jobs include Greenjobs.net and Jobs.greenbiz.com. You may also want check if industry organizations house their own targeted job boards like the American Wind Energy Association Careersinwind.com or the U.S. Green Building Council Careercenter.usgbc.org. More resources for green job seekers can be found at http://bit.ly/1m8sR32.

For more information and statistics on green jobs visit the BLS at Bls.gov/green/greencareers.htm and the O*net green resource page at Onetcenter.org/green.html.

Theresa Mickelwait holds a master's degree in psychology and a certificate in career coaching from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She is a senior assistant director at the University of Kentucky James W. Stuckert Career Center. Reach her at Theresa.Mickelwait@uky.edu

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