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February 06, 2013

NCLR Releases Study about 'Bright Future' for Latinos in the Green Jobs Sector

Bright GreenThe National Council of La Raza (NCLR) today released a report taking a close look at the bright future the clean energy economy offers to Latino workers and underlining five "bright green" metropolitan areas where these workers are specially benefiting from the growth of green jobs.

"The growth of the Latino workforce and the push toward environmental sustainability will define the future of the American economy," said Catherine Singley, Senior Policy Analyst for the Economic and Employment Policy Project at NCLR and author of the report. "The challenge is how to align the fastest-growing segment of the labor force with the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. Investing in education and training for Latino workers should be part of any strategy to advance the green economy."

The study -- titled "Bright Green: Five Metropolitan Areas Where the Latino Workforce and the Clean Economy Overlap" -- focuses on previous research by the Brookings Institution suggesting that the parts of the country that have made a strongest emphasis on green jobs development have fared better during the economic hardships of the Great Recession.

"Most green occupation groups," concludes the study, "pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations" and "are more accessible to workers without a four-year college degree." It cites the Brookings Institution report as saying that green jobs pay an average of 13 percent more than the median U.S. wages.

This is particularly relevant to Latino workers, whose level of education is much lower than other national communities, with 81 percent of them having less than a bachelor's degree. 

The five "bright green" metro areas described in this report are: Knoxville, Tennessee; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Arkansas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, California.

Even though the report is optimistic about the future of Latino workers in the clean energy economy, it also underlines several obstacles and difficulties that are keeping them from taking full advantage of this fast-growing sector of the economy.

"Latinos in particular are more likely than other workers to face barriers to employment, including limited access to affordable transportation, education, training, relevant social networks, and opportunities to improve their English proficiency," says the report.

The NCLR study, however, is upbeat in its projections for the future, underlying that "bright green metro areas offer tremendous opportunities for those Latino workers who are already employed in relevant occupations or possess the education requirements to qualify for jobs in the clean economy."

But to get there, it urges policy-makers, elected officials and business leaders to take several crucial steps, including the following:
  • A concerted effort by companies and public, private, and nonprofit training providers to recruit and train incumbent Latino workers to transition from their current occupations into green jobs that are functionally similar.
  • A comprehensive commitment by all levels of government and business to invest in adult education and training that helps more Latinos attain postsecondary education, either as an associate’s degree or equivalent college credentials.
  • Moving more Latinos into adult education and training programs that prepare them for the interim level of required education.
  • Pairing policies to advance environmental quality, energy efficiency, and related green initiatives with investments that are well targeted toward Latino workers.

Learn more in the full report.

-- Javier Sierra

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