Back when I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street and loved Kermit the Frog. He once sang a song “It’s not easy being green” to get kids to understand that it’s okay to be different.
Today, Kermit and I continue to share some attributes but one especially stands out – being green. Today being green can mean many things: a celebration of Irish culture, an expression of continued usefulness (evergreen), or even an expression of envy (pea green). But for me, it’s much more than that. It’s about “green” manufacturing and training people to understand that it is actually easy to be green once you know how.
But the trick is in the knowing. For years, I’ve had people ask me “Kermit – I mean Stacey – what types of skills do workers in green manufacturing need?” And I was hard-pressed to answer. But now as manufacturers look to reduce their environmental footprint, use alternative materials and think about issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility, it has become easier to define the skills – and now train people – for green manufacturing jobs.
NIST MEP’s new coordinated federal initiative E3 is helping manufacturers across the nation adapt and thrive in a new business era focused on sustainability. E3, through community engagement, works directly with manufacturers, utilities, and partners to streamline delivery of the most suitable technical and financial resources to manufacturers. Federal partners include Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture. Projects are taking place in many places around the country including Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Michigan and many more states.
Interestingly, the skills needed in green manufacturing are in many ways the same as “regular” manufacturing. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center provides training for green energy jobs that includes:
- Shop safety procedures
- Basic shop mathematical skills
- Basic blueprint use
- Orientation to geometric dimensioning and tolerancing
- Use of precision measurement tools
- Orientation to machine technology
- Hand tools and assembly
- Orientation to machine programming
- Manufacturing skills required by the emerging clean economy (such as sustainability, solid waste management, energy management and environmental business management).
However, “regular” manufacturing is now turning to sustainability and green in ever larger degrees. This is not only because of concern for our environment, but also because a strategic use of resources is a way to eliminate unnecessary costs and increase productivity – think “no-waste manufacturing” where materials are completely used and nothing is thrown away. Being “no-waste” means: non-toxic substitutes, optimized raw materials use, water use and wastewater reductions, air emissions reduction, solid and hazardous waste reductions, transport packaging optimization and energy efficiency.
For individuals interested, then, in manufacturing jobs, the knowledge and skills they need are more sophisticated than is commonly thought. Even leaving out the “green” in manufacturing skills, one still needs a solid education in mathematics, reading, analysis, communications, spatial reasoning and computer applications. For more information about how to get training in green and clean jobs, visit the Department of Energy’s site for clean energy workforce development. This is an initiative of the Department of Energy and NIST providing $1.3 million of funding for green job training programs for the clean energy workforce.
So green in this case might actually mean “money”. Since wages and benefits of manufacturing workers are higher on average than jobs in many other fields, green and clean manufacturing will set job-seekers apart from the crowd and they’ll be a part of saving the earth in a very tangible and constructive way. Kermit would be proud.