Book Highlights Successes of Innovative Programs Across the Country
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LOS ANGELES – March 14, 2012 – In a tough economy, many think that creating quality “green jobs” is far from reach. However, a new book from the California Construction Academy of the UCLA Labor Center highlights innovative programs across the country that are generating good energy efficiency careers despite major obstacles. Beyond Green Jobs: Building Lasting Opportunities in Energy Efficiency argues that these programs show that “deep green” energy efficiency is the answer to bringing the economy back.
“In our book, we recognize that there are many shades of green,” says Daniel Villao, Director of the California Construction Academy and primary author of the book. ““The programs we showcase all illustrate different pieces of a deep green program. We call the book Beyond Green Jobs because we see that going deep green can create better, longer lasting opportunities for the environment, the economy, and the community. Rather than train an army of workers to replace light bulbs, it is possible to train workers to become electricians, plumbers or heating/air conditioning mechanics, who then gain access to good, lifelong careers.”
Villao brings critical construction industry expertise to the field of energy efficiency. He completed his apprenticeship as an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 11 and worked for many years in the electrical sector. Previously, as a council representative for the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, Villao played a key role managing all public sector engagements for the 437,000 members represented by the Council and their affiliates. The construction industry insight and expertise the book provides has often been a missing link for diverse stakeholders to understand their common interest in building a clean energy economy.
Beyond Green Jobs highlights many cases across the nation, several of which are in Los Angeles. One of these, the Los Angeles Green Retrofit and Workforce Program, stands out among municipal projects. It successfully combines energy efficiency with a focus on creating quality jobs that diverse communities can access. Marcello Rocket, a young African American man, was a city worker on the verge of losing his job when he entered the program. He gained the opportunity to retrofit city-owned buildings in Los Angeles. “They didn’t just go get college graduates and people with degrees. They got people with no experience at all… And it makes me feel good about myself that I’m needed to do things I never thought I would be doing.”
Elsa Barbosa, Campaign Director of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), which led the Campaign to create the Los Angeles Green Retrofit and Workforce Program, sees it as a model for diverse collaborations. “I think the victory of the Los Angeles Green Retrofit Ordinance was really unions, community and environmentalists putting a stake in the ground together to say we have the right to develop a good green economy for Los Angeles.”
On the other side of the country, Groundswell, a nonprofit in Washington, DC, partners with community groups to expand the energy efficiency market. Using grassroots strategies like knocking on doors and holding community meetings, they have high success recruiting property owners to sign up to improve the energy usage of their buildings. “We’ve changed the messenger,” says Will Byrne, Executive Director of Groundswell, of the project’s success. “We use social media and hold neighborhood energy meetings that allow community leaders to play a validating role in going green, instead of relying upon traditional marketing campaigns run by utility companies and businesses in the past.”
Clean Energy Works Oregon established the first community workforce agreement in an energy efficiency program. This worksite contract sets goals to hire local and disadvantaged residents and ensures energy efficiency work connects to good training and good wages and benefits. Jeremy Hays, Chief Strategist for State and Local Initiatives, Green for All, sees an important connection between environmental benefits and good jobs. “If we approach the energy efficiency sector as an economic development engine, then we ask ourselves what we want to get out of an economic development strategy. The answers are then competitiveness, job quality, stability and robustness.”
Beyond Green Jobs has received praise from major policy, labor, business and community leaders across the country.
Mark H. Ayers, President of Building and Construction Trades Department sees the importance of ensuring that energy efficiency ties to good, long-term careers. “Beyond Green Jobs weaves together policy and practice to outline how to create rapid access to what the American construction worker needs most, good jobs and good careers.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu, US Representative of the 32nd Congressional District of California, describes the book as an important tool for diverse leaders. “We have the opportunity to bring the economy back through energy efficiency, and we cannot afford to let this moment pass us by. UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy aptly describes current challenges to bringing energy efficiency to scale, and then shows how groups on the ground have begun to tackle them.”
The California Construction Academy released its book on March 14 in coordination with the California Labor Federation’s Building Workforce Partnerships Conference and the Blue Green Alliance Foundation’s Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference.