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State Labor Department partners with UH to facilitate growth of 'green' jobs

By Jeffrey Matsu and Sharon Moriwaki

LAST UPDATED: 2:06 a.m. HST, Apr 22, 2011

Hawaii aspires to become a model of energy independence and sustainability. The state's ambitious Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative aims to wean us off fossil fuel with a goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030. We embrace these goals. We will get there through energy-efficient modes of transportation; investments in renewable energy technologies that harness our abundant solar, wind, hydro and geothermal resources; biofuels production; and energy efficient construction and retrofit designs.

But are we creating the jobs and skilled workforce necessary for a clean energy economy?

Hawaii's Green Workforce: A Baseline Assessment — a report recently issued by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) — is the first comprehensive statewide study of green jobs. It defines "green jobs" and identifies job opportunities and future growth areas.

What is a "green job?" The DLIR and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics now have a standardized definition — the first step toward tracking the growth of this new industry. Starting next month, the bureau will begin national data collection on green goods and services and green technologies and practices. Broadly defined, "green jobs" are those that produce goods and services that positively affect the environment or energy sustainability. We define five core areas as green:

» Generation of clean, renewable, sustainable energy.

» Reducion of pollution and waste.

» Energy efficiency.

» Education, training and support of a green workforce.

» Natural, environment-friendly production.

A green job does not require its primary function or responsibility to be green, so long as the tasks that advance some or all of the core areas occur on a recurring basis.

"The DLIR estimates that Hawaii has 11,145 green jobs, and by 2012, another 2,903 jobs will be added — a 26 percent increase in just two years. Hawaii's green workforce is growing faster than the overall economy and, if this trend continues, could more than double by 2018. The variety of green jobs is equally remarkable, spanning 203 occupations across 19 major industry groups.

Eighty-seven percent of Hawaii's green jobs are in three major industry clusters — construction and mining, retail and wholesale trade and miscellaneous services. Five occupations account for 28 percent of green employment: janitors and cleaners, forest and conservation technicians, security guards, electricians, and heating and air-conditioning mechanics and installers.

Electricians alone could add more than 1,200 green jobs by 2018. Not all positions within an occupational group qualify — only 6 percent of plumbers meet the green standard based on our definition.

To succeed in the green economy and effectively compete for green jobs, workers may need to update their knowledge and skills or acquire new expertise altogether. Community colleges and trade schools fulfill 62 percent of the education and training requirements for green jobs. Enrolling in formal degree programs may also be necessary for workers seeking new careers. The associated costs, direct and indirect, can be significant, particularly during the current post-recession economic recovery.


Current efforts under way can be seen on the TV show, “Hawaii: The State of Clean Energy,” which re-airs on May 1 at 4 p.m. (KHNL) and May 15 at 4:30 p.m. (KGMB). Also upcoming is the Job & Career Fair on May 18 at the Neal Blaisdell Center, and the Green Workforce Development Conference on May 24 at the Hawaii Convention Center. For more information, go to and

In response, the DLIR has partnered with the University of Hawaii community colleges to provide green jobs certificate programs in five core areas: renewable energy, energy-efficient building construction, energy-efficient assessment services, biofuels and reforestation. (A $6 million federal grant provided the funding.)

In construction, for example, certification in new building standards like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design requires training by the professions and trades to ensure that our local workforce is properly certified and prepared for the job market.

Advancing Hawaii's clean energy economy requires coordinated action on education and training by policymakers, educational institutions, employers, investors, labor, and the community — all working together.

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