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Hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Empowering Workers to Rebuild America's Economy and Long-Term Competitiveness: Green Skills Training for Workers

Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Empowering Workers to Rebuild America's Economy and Long-Term Competitiveness: Green Skills Training for Workers


United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing

As Entered into the Record

I join in welcoming Secretary Solis to today's hearing, and I wish I could be there in person. I look forward very much to her testimony on the Department of Labor's plan to create jobs and provide job training to those seeking employment in the rapidly developing green sectors of our economy, so that our workers can develop the education and employment skills they need to enter the green workforce, earn family-sustaining wages, and move up the career ladder.

As Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst said of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $70 billion funding of green initiatives, "It's the first time the notion that investment in a clean-energy economy is connected officially in government policy with the idea of job creation." Let's work together to see that it is not the last time this important connection is made.

We currently face large challenges on the economy and the environment - a severe recession with rising unemployment, unacceptable high school dropout rates, an increasingly competitive global economy, and an ever more pressing call to protect the environment. We also, however, have large opportunities, thanks to the leadership of President Obama and the enduring spirit of American workers. By wisely investing in green job training, we can prepare Americans for steady jobs, develop needed new technologies, reassert our pre-eminent position in the global economy, and significantly reduce the growing danger to the environment.

Green jobs can improve our nation's economy and environment and strengthen America's middle class—

* The American Solar Energy Society reports that in 2007, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies "generated more than 9 million jobs, more than $1 trillion in revenues, and nearly $105 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues." Revenues in these industries surpassed the combined sales of Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, and General Motors, which totaled $905 billion that year.

* The work performed in green jobs reduces consumers' electric and water bills, and reduces our dependency on foreign oil.

* Green jobs are less likely to be outsourced, and pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs.

Green industry sectors have strong potential for future growth as well. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the U.S. must produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, by 2022. The development of solar photovoltaics, just one part of the solar energy industry, is estimated to grow from a $20 billion industry in 2007 to $74 billion by 2017. Wind energy, the fastest-growing form of energy generation, is expanding by 30% to 40% every year. We obviously now have a unique opportunity to empower many more workers, young and old, to protect the environment, boost the economy, and increase individual self-sufficiency. It's an opportunity we can't afford to miss.

We know that economic expansion cannot take place without a well-trained workforce. It's essential that we provide the necessary resources to give workers the access to the training they'll need for jobs in green industries. Such training is especially important for the many men and women who are suffering the most today from the economic crisis.

Our witnesses on today's second panel will tell us much more about which skills should be cultivated, which programs should be encouraged, and how partnerships between government, business, organized labor, and education can benefit everyone involved. In particular, I look forward to hearing more from President Ayers of the Building Trades, who has been an important leader in developing partnerships to provide skill-building opportunities and good middle-class jobs for employees in green industries. It's essential to identify the specific skills that can contribute most to success in green careers. Opportunities are increasingly available at all levels of such careers, from management and consulting to boots-on-the-ground green collar jobs.

The timing has never been better for a new commitment to workforce development and the environment. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to use the talents and develop the skills of our workers to get our economy back on track now and ensure a prosperous, greener future for our children.

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