Are ‘green jobs’ for real?

San Antonio’s Mission Verde plan envisions “green jobs” filled by “green workers” trained at community colleges and universities.  But it’s not clear the jobs are there, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

. . .  colleges face the same riddles confounding city leaders in their quest to be on the leading edge of the green economy. What exactly is a green job, and how do you gauge demand in the marketplace? Does a green job require a degree or special certification?

St. Philip’s College — one of the five Alamo Colleges in the San Antonio area — offers an associate degree in alternative energy, as well as a short-term certificate course for working electricians and a one-year certificate for students with no electrical experience.

Northwest Vista College offers an associate degree in advanced water systems and short-term courses in green construction, energy auditing, weatherization, green house cleaning and landscaping, and electric car conversion.

With federal stimulus dollars drying up and local energy rebate programs running out of money, it’s hard to evaluate demand for graduates’ skills. “It’s a murky crystal ball,” said Dennis McDonaugh, chairman of the electronics and information technology department at St. Philip’s.

The Alamo Colleges have teamed with four other community and technical colleges along the Interstate 35 corridor to attract grant and stimulus money, reports the Express-News.

So far, the Alamo Colleges has netted $4.3 million, more than half from federal stimulus funds. Some of the money went to install a solar cell demonstration panel at St. Philip’s Southwest Campus and to buy gleaming new training modules for the alternative energy programs.

St. Philip’s McDonaugh believes that the first batch of 10 to 12 graduates will have no trouble finding work, but it is not clear what the future holds.

“If we turn out people who can’t get hired, we are just shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said.

The University of Texas at San Antonio also is developing alternative-energy programs.  Les Shephard of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute plans to bring St. Philip’s students to USTA to do research.

  • Stephan Engel (left) and Joshua Moore work in their wind power delivery systems class at the St. Philip’s College Southwest Campus last month. Alternative energy programs at St. Philip’s are key parts of Mission Verde, the city’s strategic plan on green jobs.

    Photo: Lisa Krantz/Express-News / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

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