STEEL FRAMING ALLIANCE | FRAMEWORK ONLINE
June 4, 2008
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New Orleans Experiencing Boom In "Green Collar" Jobs

Presenters at a Global Green forum on Wednesday night made the case that New Orleans has an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs in "green collar" industries, including building trades that focus on sustainable design and construction.

"The fact is, because of all the rebuilding going on and the millions of dollars being pumped into the city for construction projects, New Orleans is the place to be for green collar jobs," said Darryl Malek-Wiley of the Sierra Club.

Essentially, the forum's participants argued that building green is not just a matter of conscience -- it also presents an economic development opportunity. As more people become attuned to the benefits of installing solar panels in their homes, for example, contractors will need to hire skilled workers to install the technology.

Beth Galante, director of Global Green's local office, ticked off examples of green collar jobs that could tie in to the city's recovery.

"Green building raters, architects who understand how to design green features into buildings, solar installers, home energy raters, growers to raise organic fruits and vegetables and sell them at neighborhood markets, recycling businesses, lead remediation companies, nurseries that grow wetlands plants," she said. "There are just so many possible jobs that can grow out of the initiatives that the city is embracing."

Sidney Fauria, a contractor whose family has been in the business for generations, said the storm pushed him to reconsider the way he builds houses. He started using steel panels for residential construction, not only because of their strength, but because they cannot be degraded by termites and rot. He said steel extends the lifespan of homes and reduces the need for repairs.

"I am one of a group of contractors who believes we need to change the paradigm of how we build homes to make sure they are stronger and conserve resources," he said. "Steel framing is lighter than wood, meaning you need fewer pilings in the foundation, conserving resources. You can even get a reduction in your insurance premiums with steel."

Fauria says that many contractors still have a way to go before freely adopting new ways of doing things, but other presenters said young people seem enthusiastic about learning green job skills.

Malek-Wiley said the Sierra Club helped assemble a group of nonprofits to apply for a job training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Earlier this year, four local nonprofits received money to help people ages 16 to 24 learn green job skills.

Thanks to the grant, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, ARC of Greater New Orleans, Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, and the Old City Building Center each has a program for training youth in green job skills. Participants learn landscaping, gardening, home weatherization, energy conservation, construction, building deconstruction or building material reuse, depending on which nonprofit they choose.

Malek-Wiley says that 800 youth are expected to participate in the programs in the course of a year. During their four-month training, they earn a stipend and learn leadership and life skills.

The trainees and other recruits to green industries are critical to the city's recovery, Galante argued.

"The fact is that New Orleans needs a trained workforce if the recovery is going to continue," she said. "The participants in these training programs don't just learn about a specific industry. They learn fundamental job skills that will make them assets to the workforce."

Malek-Wiley said said the boom in sustainable industries is here.

"There will be so many green job opportunities in the coming months and years. Make It Right -- 110 houses. Project Home Again -- 120 houses. Schools, fire stations," he said. "Where else in America are people talking about building like that?"

Earthea Nance, director of infrastructure and environmental planning for the city's recovery office, said local government has also keyed into the national sustainability movement. She said the city had drafted a policy agenda for improving the city's green bona fides over one-, three- and 10-year periods, including such initiatives as increasing the number of hybrid cars in the city's fleet.

Source: New Orleans Times Picayune, May 22, 2008

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