D.C. schools will begin teaching environmentally friendly construction techniques to prepare the next generation of workers for the anticipated increase in demand for “green-collar” workers.
“We are at the dawn,” said D.C. Department of the Environment Director George S. Hawkins. “Five years from now - 10 years from now, this is how every building is going to be built. These kids are going to be the next big business moguls like Bill Gates.”
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, on Wednesday introduced the city’s first such curriculum - at Cardozo Senior High School’s Academy of Construction and Design, which will prepare students to enter construction trades immediately after high school.
More than 100 students will participate in the program, which began in 2005 and received a new state-of-the-art facility in March 2007.
The move comes as deadlines for the Green Building law loom on the horizon.
The law requires all new government buildings meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. By October, all publicly financed buildings in the District will have to be LEED Silver certified, and by 2012, all new buildings must meet that certification.
Building techniques used for LEED certification include using solar panels to generate electricity, installing water-efficient plumbing fixtures or using recycled construction materials.
Area construction companies and environmental experts say the curriculum is essential to building a solid work force as the demand for green-collar jobs is expected to explode at the same rate technology jobs have in the past decade.
A 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society estimated green industries generate about 8.5 million jobs in the U.S. and could provide as many as 40 million by 2030. The group also estimates that revenue generated by those industries will more than quadruple to $4.5 trillion in that time.
Steven J. Donohoe, president of Donohoe Construction, said his company and others are investing in green-collar training to get ahead of the curve and help eliminate the shortage of workers in all construction trades as the region continues to become more developed.
“It’s been difficult,” Mr. Donohoe said. “The real disconnect is people looking for employment, but they don’t have the job-ready skills.”
Project managers for Turner Construction Co. also have acknowledged a shortage of properly trained workers and the impending spike in demand for such workers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2006 that jobs in the construction industry are expected to increase 10 percent over the next eight years, about the same rate as the average for all industries. The D.C. Department of Employee Services expects 1,400 new construction jobs in the District by 2014.
The curriculum is the second major move in a week made by the Fenty administration to prepare students for construction trades.
On Monday, the city announced the opening of the city’s first architecture, construction and engineering high school, at Phelps High School in Northeast, where green construction also will be part of the curriculum.
“We are not just teaching young people a trade,” Mr. Fenty said. “We will teach them to learn, work and appreciate green-collar jobs.”
Mr. Hawkins said the curriculum will also be used as a way to keep this year’s participants in the first D.C. Green Summer Job Corps active in green-collar education.