The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Office space: Green edition

    Renee Rosenow

    Division of the workforce is as follows:
    Blue Collar equals manual labor
    White Collar equals professional labor
    So where do the green collar jobs fit in?

    What is a green collar job?

    The Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a think and do tank at UW-Madison, has worked hard on the definition of green collar jobs, said Satya Conway-Rhodes, senior associate at COWS.

    “We define green collar jobs as well paid career track jobs that contribute directly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality,” Conway-Rhodes said.

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    Green collar jobs range from low skill entry level positions to high skill, higher paid jobs, she said. However, the key point is that green collar jobs include opportunities for advancement in skill level and wages.

    The transitioning energy economy caused the idea of green jobs, Conway-Rhodes said. Originally, the energy economy was based on fossil fuels but is now moving towards renewable energy. She added that people around the country and at COWS are seeking ways to take advantage of the green-collar job movement. She said they also want to make sure the jobs created in this field are what they call “good jobs.”

    “There’s a lot of opportunity, there’s going to be a lot of economic activity and renewable energy,” Conway-Rhodes said, “and we need to think really well about who’s going to benefit from that.”

    Conway-Rodes added that leveraging the opportunity for people who were left out of the last economy is a goal as well.

    Specific Qualifications

    There are a number of different ways to prepare for a green-collar economy.

    Conway-Rhodes said there are no specific majors or qualifications for the green-collar movement. However, she added that within work in renewable energy or technology, there are maintenance, manufacturing and engineering opportunities.

    There are a number of different ways to prepare for a green-collar economy, such as through the blue-collar career track, she said.

    “(There are) some of the skills that are very familiar to us but they’re being applied in a different way,” Conway-Rhodes said.

    However, secondary education also offers entrance into the green-collar field.

    Career Outreach Manager Staci Heidtke said she feels all majors offered at UW-Eau Claire relate to the green-collar movement.

    “I think that any job can be turned into a green collar job,” she said, “and so every major here offers skills that are valuable to employers.”

    Heidtke added that many majors allow students to choose a specialty. Entering the green-collar job movement is a personal choice and students may do that, she said.

    In addition, she said students should gain work experience, such as an internship in something related to green-collar job movement.

    “I think in general, Career Services has had interest from students in green-collar jobs,” Heidtke said. “I think that . millennias are interested in improving the environmental quality and improving conservation.”

    Senior Ry Carpenter said he thinks many majors could apply to the green-collar movement, including his own major, geography. He also said that political science, natural sciences, communication and even education majors could fall into the green-collar category.

    Green collar and the economy

    Carpenter thinks the green-collar job movement will impact the economy in some form and that green jobs are a way to kill two birds with one stone.

    First, he said, green jobs will help energy policies and the environment in general. Also, green jobs will boost the economy and offer more jobs. Green jobs may even prevent outsourcing, he said, resulting in more jobs here.

    As people move into a new technology, there’s a certain amount of economic impact on the economy, Conway-Rhodes said.

    For example, she said, there are a number of solar companies in Wisconsin that demonstrate this cycle. These companies have to purchase services and goods and employ people. The employees live and spend money in Wisconsin communities. This is a rippling effect from the growing solar industry.

    Conway-Rhodes said that when discussing how to build a green economy, it is important to look at leveraging state and local support from the government for several things. This includes investing, making it easier for people to do business and making sure the jobs provided by the economy are good jobs.

    “(They) have things like benefits or pay a living wage and have good working conditions,” she said.

    Assistant professor of environmental and public health Crispin Pierce said the effect of the green-collar movement on the economy would be a major change.

    “I think we’re going to need to make, frankly, a somewhat painful retooling of our job force,” he said of jobs including engineers, agronomists, health professionals, city planners and other industries.

    In the long run, Pierce said he feels the green-collar movement will help the economy.

    “Ultimately, I do believe that with green-collar jobs, when working in a sustainable planned way, we’re actually going to save money,” Pierce said. “We’re going to have more attractive jobs,” Pierce said.

    Green revolution

    Pierce said the green-collar movement, in addition to the energy industry, affects numerous industries in Wisconsin, including the agricultural and automobile industries.

    “I think that Wisconsin is very much a center of the kinds of issues and the kinds of green-collar employment that (need) to take place here,” he said.

    Pierce said the green-collar movement is similar to the first green-collar revolution and that people should reconsider what they are doing in relation to sustainability.

    The first green revolution occurred about 50 years ago, Pierce said, when people looked at intensive use of agriculture practices. However, the current one is different from the first, he added.

    “The second green revolution really is a new phenomenon,” Pierce said. “It’s not new in terms of the advice our grandparents gave us about being conservative . but it is new in how we think in terms of our lives,” Pierce said.

    He added that as economic changes have occurred over the last couple of months, people need to realize that a sustainable way of living is the way to go. This includes economic stability and conservatism.

    Pierce said that the green-collar movement is needed to prepare young people to enter the workforce in the long term.

    Local Economy

    The green-collar job movement is in its infancy in the Eau Claire area, said Ned Noel, associate planner for the city of Eau Claire.

    However, there are several businesses and programs in the area that promote a green sector, he said. These businesses range from energy companies, schools, recycling and plastics and are part of the sustainable movement. Noel added that some programs even have “green teams” for this issue.

    Noel said these types of jobs are important.

    “They help transition this economy (to something more sustainable),” he said.

    The growth of the movement in the Eau Claire area depends on two points. Public awareness is the first. Second, he added, is the business climate.

    Noel said he feels that the Eau Claire area could tap into more renewable energy, specifically citing solar energy. However, Noel added that the pace of the movement here is due to the size of the area.

    Green-collar and the environment

    Pierce said the environmental and public health major prepares students to enter the work field to protect a variety of issues including public and environmental health.

    “I certainly do consider the work that all of our graduate students do green-collar,” he said, “We are supporting health of the environment and health of people as well.”

    Students from the program will go on to be environmental health professionals or sanitarians, Pierce said. Sanitarians do a variety of jobs including animal problems, air quality and outbreaks of disease.

    Pierce added that as the green-collar movement has grown over the years, the EPH department has seen an increase in majors, specifically in the environmental health emphasis.

    Personal choices

    Carpenter said he thinks the green-collar job movement is a great idea and offers a different type of opportunity to people.

    “It’s sort of an alternative to white- and blue-collar jobs,” he said.

    Carpenter said he thinks the green-collar job market will help people rethink their choices.

    “I feel like the environment is something that people need to change their value systems (for),” he said.

    Green-collar – it’s the new blue and white.

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