In 2006, Chicago was named as one of the top ten green job centers in the nation. At that time, more than 16,000 city residents had a green job. Although the recession has affected the city’s unemployment rates, Chicago is in a position to continue to be a leading green collar jobs metropolis. The Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative (the Initiative) is working to ensure that more green collar jobs make their way to the city.  The organization has detailed their plans in a new report, Building a Green Collar Workforce in Chicagoland (PDF).

“The Initiative’s mission is to facilitate the development of a skilled workforce that is ready to meet employer demands in the emerging green economy and to capture new employment opportunities for Chicagoland workers. This will be accomplished through the development and promotion of a green collar workforce system that integrates green business growth, innovative workforce development strategies, and emerging environmental practices and policies into a vibrant regional economy.” Source: The Initiative (PDF)

Several strategies have been identified to bring more job opportunities to the city as well as expand its green workforce. First and foremost on the Initiative’s list is the importance of publicizing the existing green workforce training opportunities. A variety of educational institutions are part of the Illinois Community College Sustainability Network. Local residents can participate in low-cost green jobs training programs, expanding the available workforce.

The Initiative will also focus on several other strategies including tracking sector-specific workforce strategies, highlighting the community colleges sustainable curriculum programs, capitalizing on new funding resource opportunities, and highlighting regional training programs.

The Chicagoland area already has several unique green jobs training programs available to certain segments of the population. One such program is specifically for training women for a green collar job. The Enterprising Kitchen hosts a six-month long training program that teaches women life and business skills and provides career counseling to low-income Chicago women.

Although many of the green collar job opportunities are designed for low-income individuals, the vast majority of these green jobs are in male-dominated fields. Green jobs training programs tailored for women help ensure solid job opportunities for everyone.

The Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative is recommending six actionable items in order to guarantee a prominent role for Chicagoans in the blossoming green collar economy:

  1. Prioritize collaboration and partnerships
  2. Create a process for ongoing standardization of curriculum for green training programs
  3. Ensure comprehensive workforce strategies to engage low-income, low-skill workers
  4. Establish a standard weatherization process
  5. Promote the development of integrated green workforce and economic development strategies
  6. Establish minimum common building standards
It is imperative that organizations, businesses, and government agencies work together to bring more green collar job opportunities to the city. The information provided by the Initiative will help guide Chicago’s emerging green collar economy.

Photo: Linda N./Flickr

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