The Future of Work Is Green
When we talk about green or clean energy, we are referring to energy that comes from renewable sources like sunlight, wind, rain, tides, plants, algae, and geothermal heat.
Fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, draw on finite resources that eventually may become too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve.
Fortunately, fossil fuels can be replaced by green energy in areas such as electricity, water, and space heating, along with fuel for motor vehicles.
We need workers to perform green jobs, which, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) “are decent jobs that contribute to preserve or restore the environment, be they in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, or in new, emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
According to the ILO, green jobs help improve energy and raw materials efficiency, limit greenhouse gas emission, minimize waste and pollution, protect and restore ecosystems, and support adaptation to the effects of climate change.
Locally, we are finding our higher education institutions are busy preparing students for these jobs.
Buffalo State College received a $753,000 grant to develop clean energy certificate programs. These programs, which are to be completed in a partnership with the New York Power Authority, are slated to start late next year or early 2021.
Students working for certification earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, electrical engineering technology, or industrial technology. Students also gain hands-on experience in the clean energy field.
Ilya Grinberg, PhD is a professor of Engineering Technology at SUNY Buffalo State, where he teaches in the areas of power systems, electric machines, and power electronics.
Grinberg says SUNY is positioning itself to become a nationwide model for clean energy workforce training. “The clean energy field is diverse and broad. Industries have different needs related to clean energy.”
Courses are in development on an as needed basis, and one size will not fit all.
Buffalo State is collaborating with local institutions of higher education to maximize efficiency. “There is no need for two places to compete with each other,” Grinberg says. “We are serving local industries by asking what their needs are. It is not what we want; it is what the industries want.”
Grinberg explains that Buffalo State is closely collaborating with local industries and having individual conversations with companies. “We understand the systems approach to the topic. They are better in everyday operations.”
The end result will be offering courses that are exactly what industry needs for employees to update their skills and become more marketable.
According to its website, The State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) offers an Engineering Sciences master’s degree with a focus on clean energy. The intention is to train students for careers in both the energy sector and the renewable energy industry.
Program graduates are prepared for jobs as design engineers, field engineers, plant engineers, utility engineers, energy auditors, and renewable energy system integrators for homes and businesses. Other job possibilities include local and state government renewable-energy planners, and additional positions in the energy field.
UB’s Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (CMI) says it is “accelerating the invention, development and commercialization of emerging clean energy technologies.”
Located at 701 Ellicott Street in Buffalo, the CMI says its efforts are “helping lower energy costs, reduce carbon emissions and promote a cleaner and more sustainable future.”
According to an Environmental Defense Fund report published last year, “Despite shifting energy policy, the clean energy economy remains a big source of jobs—at 4 million, with wind and solar jobs outpacing those in coal.”
It is believed that the job market is still set to grow “as businesses and local governments build demand.”
Judith A. Rucki is a public relations consultant and freelance writer.