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Study: Green jobs could spark "explosive growth"

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(Read caption) Solar installer Blake Rainville carries a panel to be installed on a Fremont, Calif. home.

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The Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm and workplace-data fountainhead Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts that job growth in environment, ecology, and alternative-energy sectors will "fuel significant growth and job creation over the next decade."

Challenger's findings (which are not available online but were e-mailed to me) say that "green-collar" jobs – a category that the firm says includes engineers, architects, project managers, and consultants – are expected to experience "explosive growth" at a rate of 1.3 million per year through 2030, and could present the best opportunities for a generation of college grads, rivaling those of the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. The consulting firm says that a brief review of environmental-career websites uncovered about 1,500 job listings.

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Challenger cites a forecast by the American Solar Energy Society that reported that renewable energy and energy-efficient industries were responsible for the creation of nearly 8.5 million jobs in 2006, including about 4.8 million indirect jobs such as accountants, computer analysts, and truck drivers. ASES says that, by 2030, the number of direct and indirect jobs related to renewable energy and energy efficiency is expected to reach 40 million.

On Monday, TreeHugger reported that training in solar energy jobs is on the rise. The environmental blog noted that Solar Energy International, a leader in solar-energy education courses, reports a 14 percent increase in enrollment just over the last year.

The biggest obstacle to green-job growth, says Challenger, could be a lack of skilled workers. But the report notes that, "as demand increases for workers in these fields, colleges and universities are instituting specialized degree programs to supply the future green-collar workforce."

Challenger's report is consistent with a study by the Worldwatch Institute released earlier this month that found that that jobs in renewable energy are expanding worldwide, as jobs in coal and natural gas are vanishing.

But comparing different studies can be tricky, because, as the Monitor's  Marilyn Gardner observed in last month, there is no universally agreed-upon definition of what a green-collar job is. Indeed, sometimes the same job can be both green and not-green. I suppose that mining iron ore that will be used to make steel for wind turbines should count, but mining ore for SUVs shouldn't. But it's often the same miners providing materials for both products.

Based on the green-job sites I looked at, though, it seems there's an emerging consensus that the category includes nonprofit workers, engineers, wildlife biologists, consultants, lawyers, and contractors, but excludes bus drivers, organic farmers, bicycle repairmen, and, for what it's worth, environmental bloggers.

In any case, if you're looking for a green job, here are some places to start (this list was cribbed from Challenger, this post from TreeHugger, and from poking around the Web):

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Green Jobs (mostly renewable energy jobs)
Environmental Career Opportunities
Sustainable Business's Green Dream Jobs
Greenbiz's Greener Careers
TreeHugger Jobs
Renewable Energy Jobs
Cyber-Sierra (lots of outdoorsy jobs)
Earthworks Jobs
EcoClub (international ecotourism jobs)
Environmental Defense Fund (this market-friendly eco-advocacy group is hiring all over the place)
Rodale Institute (lots of food and farm jobs)