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Blacks Determined Not to Miss Out On The Green Economy

School Matters

New America Media, News Report, Cynthia Griffin Posted: Sep 09, 2009

Activists are paving the way to include African Americans in a growing new green collar economy, including training schools and lobbying the White House. Cynthia Griffin is a staff writer of Our Weekly in Los Angeles. She received a 2009 NAM Education Beat Fellowship for ethnic media journalists.

Blacks Underrepresented in High-Tech Revolution

During the 1980s, America jumped into a high-tech revolution that injected thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into the economy.

According to a June 1999 article in the Monthly Labor Review, the number of high-tech jobs would jump from 14.4 million in 1966 to a projected 21.5 million in 2006. Unfortunately, African Americans claimed only a minuscule piece of that lucrative economic pie.

A report --African Americans and High-Tech Jobs: Trends and Disparities in 25 Cities-- published by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and authored by Cecilia A. Conrad, found that while the 2000 U.S. Census identified African Americans as 12% of the overall population, blacks represented only 6.7% of computer science professionals; 3.9% of engineers; and 7.5% of engineering and science technicians.

When examined by industries rather than occupation, the numbers are not much better. In 2000, African Americans represented 10% of employees in chemical manufacturing; 6.4% in computer and electronic manufacturing; 13.9% in broadcasting and telecommunications; 7.9% in information services and data processing services; and 5.2% in professional and technical services.

When you break down these numbers even further by the level of education, an even grimmer picture emerges. The National Science Foundation (NSF) found that African American women and men represented 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively, of all scientist and engineers. NSF maintains a database of all individuals who have ever received a bachelors degree in a science or engineering field, in addition to those holding a non-science and engineering bachelor's degree or higher, who are employed in a science or engineering occupation.

African Americans are also underrepresented in high-tech jobs that require less than a college degree occupations such as computer control programmers and operators, which require only a high school diploma.

Blacks are even underrepresented in computer repair positions, holding less than 10% of the slots in this field. This is a job where training can be acquired through vocational school, the military or community college.

Green Revolution and Minorities

As America stands poised on the brink of a new employment revolution The Green Collar Economy understanding why so few African Americans were able to take advantage of the high-paying career opportunities in the high-tech boom is critical.

According to workforce development policy consultant Parrish Collins, the green collar economy is not new but it is definitely growing.

The types of jobs and types of employers and businesses that are in existence range from solar to renewable energy to wind turbines to manufacturers that produce bio-fuels, explained Collins.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is still in the process of creating a program that defines, identifies and counts the green collar economy jobs, a number of private organizations have come up with their own numbers.

The Pew Charitable Trusts in its report, The Clean Energy Economy, noted that between 1998 and 2007, clean energy economy jobs described as a mix of white- and blue-collar positions ranging from scientists and engineers to electricians, machinists and teachers grew by 9.1%. The report estimates that about 770,000 jobs fall into this sector.

But what is more notable than this number, which represented about one-half of 1% of total employment, is the future it foretells.

The Pew report also notes that venture capital investment is fueling the future growth of these sectors, and that 80% of venture dollars were invested in clean energy and energy efficiency in 2008. Consequently, while conservation and pollution mitigation are currently the biggest job categories, clean energy and energy efficiency may ease into the lead in the next few years.

In another report prepared by Global Insight for the United States Conference of Mayors and the Mayors Climate Protection Center, researchers call the potential growth in green jobs significant, and project that it could be the fastest growing segment of the nations economy over the next several decades.

Its forecast: Current and Potential Green Jobs in the U.S. Economy projects that the number of green jobs could grow by an additional 4.2 million by 2038. This would account for about 10% of the nations jobs.

This employment is and will encompass solar, wind, alternative fuels, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, construction, efficiency, retrofitting as well as many areas that have yet to be developed, according to Collins.

At the macro level, a number of organizations are working diligently to make sure that people of color, as well as low-income individuals, are not left behind as the green boat of prosperity sets sail. Their activism was a critical part of the reason President Obama included $3.96 billion in the federal stimulus recovery plan for the nation.

These organizations include the Apollo Alliance and Green For All, the latter organization was founded by Van Jones in Oakland who, until last week, was environmental adviser to the White House.

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