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The 'Green' Light at the End of the Tunnel for Blue Collar Workers Jaime Watt, Client Service Representative, Newmarket Employment Resource Center

About the Author

Jaime Watt is a Client Service Representative at the Newmarket Employment Resource Center. Click here for more information.

With unemployment rates at a 15 year high in the Greater Toronto Area, many people are wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The answer is Yes -- and that light is 'green'.

Green jobs will create opportunities for many different sectors. As the world tries to fix issues on climate change governments are realizing that pursuing new initiatives in the green economy will help create jobs. Renewable energy sources such as wind power and biofuel, along with improving the efficiency of existing energy systems with retrofits, are all going to help create employment. Industries that have been hard hit by the recession such as manufacturing and construction can look for new greener opportunities. Blue Green Canada, an alliance between the United Steelworkers and Environmental Defence, is an organization working to support the development of 'good green jobs' for traditional blue collar workers. They state that 'In many cases, these (jobs) will actually be familiar tasks – welding, carpentry, fabrication, engineering – but with a new focus on creating more efficient and environmentally responsible products'(1). One example is wind energy which will create jobs for sheet metal workers, mechanical engineers, machinists, millwrights, construction equipment operators, installers and more.(2)

Countries that have invested in green initiatives have seen a tremendous amount of success creating jobs. In Germany, green manufacturing is expected to produce more jobs in the next two decades than the country's automotive industry.(3) Great Britain is investing more than $300 million on a new green industrial strategy to drive job growth with a target of creating 260,000 jobs in green energy alone. (4)

It appears that Ontario is leading the way for this transformation. On May 14th, 2009 Ontario's Green Energy Act received royal assent. This act is part of Ontario's plan to become a leading green economy in North America. The government hopes the act will 'boost investment in renewable energy projects and increase conservations, creating green jobs and economic growth in Ontario.'(5) It is estimated that the act will create 50,000 new jobs in the first three years with a potential to create 90,000 over 10 years.(6) The Government of Ontario recently gave $600 million to Ontario school boards to convert to green heating, cooling and energy systems, along with retrofitting older schools with new roofs, boilers and windows.(7)

With this kind of support from our government, and the projected growth in these green initiatives, there is hope for both our environment and our workers. After all'A healthy ecology is the basis for a healthy economy'.(8)


Sources:

(1),(2),(3),(4). Blue Green Canada, “Good Green Jobs”: www.bluegreencanada.ca/good_green_jobs.php
(5) Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, “Our Path to a Green Economy and a Cleaner Environment”: www.mei.gov.on.ca/english/energy/gea/
(6) Work Cabin, “Green jobs: Potential for 90,000 in Ontario”
(7) Service Canada, Toronto Region Labour Market Monitor May 2009
(8) Schneider, Claudine, Green Lifestyle Handbook, Henry Holt & Co (P); 1st edition (March 1990)

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