A step towards greening the economy

Manitoba lacks green jobs training programs

In November, Manitoba’s NDP government announced its 2010 Throne Speech. In terms of the environment and economy, more was promised to fixing Lake Winnipeg, more was promised to reducing carbon emission and more was promised to strengthening the Polar Bear Protection Act.

Yet, there was one glaring omission: nothing was mentioned about creating anything close to the green jobs training programs required to foster a green economy in this province.

Don’t get me wrong. As an environmentalist, I am all for cleaning up Lake Winnipeg and making it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

I am all for reducing carbon emissions and reaching our Kyoto target of six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012 (which the Manitoba government likely won’t reach because they lack a concrete overall strategy) and doing our part for reducing climate change.

I am especially in favour of protecting our polar bear population, which has become a rallying cry for environmentalists.

However, as a student of economics, I am baffled as to why Premier Greg Selinger and company did not mention anything related to training programs for green-collar jobs.

One way to grow an economy is through innovation.

Manitoba’s lack of green job programs is quite astounding considering that these industries will become hot very soon

Innovation investment in green industries like wind, solar and smart grids will create more efficiency, creating more demand, new jobs and, thus, a need for green jobs training programs.

Manitoba’s lack of green job programs is quite astounding considering that these industries will become hot very soon.

According to the 2008 book The Clean Tech Revolution by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, global growth in clean energy is projected to be worth US$254 billion by 2017. 

The only job training in Manitoba that comes close to being a green-job-specific training program is the Sustainable Energy Technician Program at Assiniboine Community College.

This is not good considering the potential to create better links with environmental and bread-and-butter issues, such as job creation in sustainable industries.

Perhaps our friends on Broadway could take some lessons from visionaries south of the border.

For example, in his 2008 book, The Green Collar Economy, Van Jones discusses the RichmondBUILD vocational program in Richmond California, which works with local non-profits to train citizens for solar panel installation.

This particular program has aided many poor people gain the essential skills for an emerging industry.

There is also the example of Indiana’s Electrical Training Institute, which offers a 128-hour practical program in wind turbine and solar panel installation.

Both the RichmondBUILD and Electrical Training Institute provide very efficient and cost effective ways of rapidly building the human capital required for high quality jobs for the working class, with an overarching goal of improving our environment.

By working with non-profit organizations, along with vocational institutions like Red River College and Winnipeg Technical College to introduce similar programs, Manitoba can become ripe for these industries and give the province more bang for its environmental and economic buck.

Adam Johnston is an economics and rhetoric and communications at the University of Winnipeg. He focuses on environmental, economic and technology policy at http://moderneconomicstechnologyenvironment.wordpress.com.

Published in Volume 65, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 20, 2011)

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