America keeps losing jobs. And we're losing them hundreds of thousands at a time every month. Yet, the pictures we keep seeing on TV are of 10 to 20 jobs at a time being created by the stimulus package. Not exactly a picture that keeps pace with the reality of the jobs people are losing every single day right now.
Look, President Obama and our leaders have a tough challenge. They need to create jobs and prevent further job losses. At the same time, the president is trying to put a face on his vision of the jobs of the future - the "green jobs" created and supported by environmentally sustainable activities.
Right now, the most common faces he's putting on these new jobs are alternative energy and weatherization jobs. It's not working so well. People aren't feeling it, so they can't envision it. (Remember the face the administration chose for the stimulus package? The president signed that $787 billion piece of legislation at a solar panel company that, as a result of the stimulus, would be able to hire 10 more people.)
Our friends at the blog Shopfloor, written by the manufacturing industry's trade association, posed this question this week: What is the right model for green jobs?
Shopfloor was puzzled by a White House blog post highlighting an energy auditor job with a non-profit organization in Philadelphia as "exactly the type of job" the stimulus package would create. Shopfloor writes:
"Are jobs with non-profits really the model on which to build a strong, resilient economy? How much stimulus does one get if "home energy auditor" is "exactly the kind of job AARA will create?"
Precisely the right question we need to be asking. Because unemployed Americans need a job right now. And they're struggling to grasp how the current vision for green jobs is going to help them right now.
Might we suggest that a better place to begin putting a face on green jobs is in the traditional manufacturing sector. There are industries across America that are creating or supporting green jobs right now - and have been for some time already.
Let's take an example from the beverage industry. Our companies are buying hybrid trucks for their delivery fleets. As a result, our companies and their drivers will now be doing their work in a more environmentally sustainable manner. A green job, one would argue.
But what is clearly green is the multiplier effect spawned from our industry moving to hybrid trucks. The move supports green jobs to make the environmentally friendly vehicle, to design the vehicle, to deliver the vehicle, to supply the parts for the vehicle and to maintain or repair that vehicle. Just like with building a regular car or truck, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of jobs that go into supporting and sustaining that manufacturing process as well as the aftermarket. That string of jobs is something people understand. Furthermore, they know these are good-paying jobs (often union) with good health benefits that touch towns large and small as well as businesses large and small.
This is just one example of the green jobs that our industry has been creating and supporting, just as many other traditional industries are doing. But taxing and over-regulating industries or their products is only going to kills jobs and stymie growth – including good-paying, tangible green jobs.
Yesterday, ADP reported the loss of just under 700,000 jobs in February alone. Coupled with the more than 600,000 jobs lost in January, America has now lost 1.3 million jobs in just the first two months of 2009.
This economy is indeed a tough one for any leader. But the creation of green jobs can start with traditional manufacturing industries that are already producing and supporting such jobs. Let’s build and grow these jobs, too. They have a multiplier effect. And they're easier for people to relate to. Then, maybe, the solar vision is a little easier for folks to grasp. (By the way, our companies are buying those solar panels, too, to energize their facilities.)