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July 14, 2011

Green Jobs Grow, but More Support Needed from Universities

This article originally appeared on Sierra Student Coalition.

A new report and interactive map just released by the Brookings Institution shows a diverse and growing clean sector that is spread across the nation employing 2.7 million people with some especially explosive growth in the clean-tech sector.  These clean-tech jobs are paying median wages 20 percent higher than average and are creating jobs at twice the pace -- surging 8.3 percent per year compared with 4.2 percent for other occupations from 2003-2010. 

These are similar results that Wired Magazine reports (with great visuals) showing that jobs in renewables and the environment are one of the hottest fields in the economic rebound, even out pacing "online publishing", "computer and network security," and the "Internet". 

The Economic Rebound- It Isn’t What You Think - Magazine - Wired.com 2011-07-13 13-51-00

This is exciting news for young people looking for good, green jobs in fields related to clean energy, but only if our universities are doing their jobs preparing us for the future. These figures should signal to institutions of higher learning it is time to shift research and educational priorities to building the clean economy. There are tremendous leadership opportunities for schools that invest in education and innovation for the clean economy -- both in preparing students in the classroom and installing clean and renewable technologies on campuses. 

Schools like Missouri University of Science and Technology, which is building a new geothermal heating system, and the University of North Texas, which recently installed three new wind turbines on campus, are not only making the switch to physical clean energy systems, but creating learning labs and research opportunities that will prepare their students for the fastest, most exciting growing fields in our current economy. 

On the other hand, many other schools are still so dependent on funds from the fossil-fuel industry that these corporations are earning increased control over research priorities. This shortsightedness is keeping the schools and their students stuck in the dirty industries of the past rather than preparing them for the fastest growing and best paying jobs of the future.  

A report by the Center for American Progress documented this, showing a disturbing amount of influence by energy companies over universities in research collaboration contracts that not only didn't address conflicts of interest with the energy companies, but in many cases allowed these companies full control over the evaluation and selection of research proposals. 

In other cases we've seen everything from a former coal executive using large donations to force the University of Kentucky to name their new basketball dorm the "Wildcat Coal Lodge" to Peabody and Arch Coal pushing Washington University in St. Louis to become a beacon of the obviously ridiculous clean coal hoax with their "Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization" -- both amidst student protests

It's time for our nation's universities to shift gears both on campus grounds and in their classrooms.  These institutions can be creating, researching, building, and innovating for a clean-energy future that will reduce pollution, increase health and security, and prepare a generation of young Americans for exciting good paying jobs building the clean economy, and a better future for ourselves.

-- Kim Teplitzky

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