Green Careers in a Changing World

By Barbara Parks
Green Career Tracks

As fast as the green economy grows and market sectors emerge with new sustainable solutions and technologies that can change our world for the better, the American job market still looks grim. Mid-income level jobs “the good jobs” are hard to find. (The equation goes something like this: fewer good jobs, more people looking.) And living wage jobs are, well, hardly that.

Minnesota’s job picture is equally troubling. Statewide estimates report five job vacancies for every ten unemployed people. But if you startle at the numbers and think in terms of lack you’ll react and waste precious energy worrying about the odds of ever snagging a good job. A good, green job, that is.

Learn to read between the lines to create a good work opportunity in a green field or market sector. Most job seekers aren’t aware of the multidisciplinary nature of this market. Opportunities at all levels and across all functions of the green market economy are available for those who are willing to look closer and see functions or occupational areas, not job titles.

For example, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that the strongest demand for workers today is found in healthcare support, healthcare practitioners and technical, business and financial operations, computer and mathematical, and arts, design, entertainment and media occupations. Good information to have, but no green job titles.

But consider the function of business and financial operations. Skills and experience in either of these functional areas are transferable as market value to any industry or market sector, such as the wind industry. A typical wind turbine manufacturing company requires the same occupational job distribution engine assemblers, machinists, machine tool operators, mechanical and industrial engineers, welders, tool and die makers, mechanics, managers, accountants, purchasing agents as a company that manufactures other, perhaps, unsustainable products.

Know your transferable skills, knowledge, and experience. In short, you may already have a marketable portfolio of skills to transfer to any major green or “clean energy” industry. Solar, wind, and biomass, in particular, are gaining ground in Minnesota and will continue to produce many new, diversified, high-wage jobs in the future. The information you need to make that transfer is found through networking at industry conferences and events. You may consider consulting with a career coach who knows the market profile of the green economy and can help you get your green foot in the door.

Consider a green collar job

Green collar jobs are often overlooked in a career search. Green collar jobs or vocational jobs in environmentally-conscious trades, such as installing solar panels; constructing and servicing wind farms; constructing green buildings; weatherizing buildings; materials re-use and recycling; organic landscaping; and food and agriculture production, generally require only short-term training. Hiring is often based on enthusiasm and demonstration of basic knowledge of the issues. Green collar jobs cannot be outsourced abroad and promise to be a vital part of the green economy of the future.

Strike out on your own as a green entrepreneur

Search through the Do It Green! Magazine to find out who’s doing green business in Minnesota. You may find the inspiration you need to develop or market a green product or service on your own, market an already established product or service, or open a green retail business (storefront or online), such as an organic foods restaurant, green landscaping service or green cleaning service (city/county offices now hire only green cleaners!). Minnesota has a reputation as a green, environmentally conscious state (16th in the nation). It also ranks as third best state in the country in which to work, measured by things such as job opportunities, job quality and workplace fairness, according to the Political Economy Research Institute. It’s a good place to live and work green.

Keep in mind that the sustainability movement is about innovation and change. Be creative about how your skills fit into the green market sectors that interest you, and you’ll be part of that change.

Green Businesses:

Blue Sky Guide

Green Jobs:

Minnesota Sustainable Communities Network Job Listings

Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge Job Listings

Minnesota Environmental Partnership Job Listings

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Job Listings

Idealist/Action without Borders Nationwide Job Listings

Job Outlook/Coaching:

MN Careers—Investigate and plan a career

Green Career Coaching

Our Sponsors