One of the centerpieces of President Obama’s effort to “stimulate” the economy has been a focus on creating “green” jobs. The President even named a Green Jobs Czar to focus the effort. Three years later, however, that effort is falling apart according to a new study and local program directors.
An audit by the Department of Labor’s Inspector General found that the Administration’s green jobs training program was falling far short of the promised goals. USA Today notes “The program’s goal was to train 124,893 people and put 79,854 in jobs. But 17 months later, 52,762 were trained and 8,035, or roughly 1 in 10, had jobs.”
The effects of this failure are being seen on the ground. In Seattle, two recent announcements demonstrate the impact.
The City of Seattle recently admitted that a $20 million program to weatherize houses in Seattle will fall well short of the promised jobs goal. When it began, the City promised the program would create 2,000 jobs. As the Seattle P-I notes, however, “The program’s most recent quarterly report, ending in December, showed the program had created only 16 jobs.” Despite those results, the city continues to equivocate about the success of the program. The program manager told the P-I, “Are we going to get to 2,000 jobs? We don’t know. Probably not, but we are going to keep making these investments.” Rather than steer funding to efforts that might help the environment, the City will continue supporting a program it knows has failed.
The failure to face reality has a real cost, not only to taxpayers but to workers who spent time and money training for green jobs that don’t exist. Just outside Seattle, the WorkForce Development Council of Snohomish County announced they were suspending a green jobs training program because only 20 percent of graduates were finding work. Remarkably, one of the community colleges involved in the program indicated they knew the program would fail. The Everett Herald reported:
In late 2010, the college conducted its own study of green jobs and training, by determining possible programs and policy going forward. The college’s findings suggested “that a general green education and, specifically, such an education offered through a community college certificate program, lacks vocational applicability in the present job market.”
This is unconscionable. Even as these colleges understood that the training they were offering was unlikely to help people find jobs, they continued to collect tuition and take the students’ precious time away from other studies that might offer them a job.
The failures, ironically, are blamed on the economic downturn. The programs were justified in the first place because they were going to provide “stimulus” to the economy. In other words the programs that were supposed to help revive the economy are now failing, say supporters, because the economy is bad. Their own words undermine the stimulative justification for the program.
Last year we noted that the states listed as the most favorable for “green jobs” also had some of the largest increases in unemployment during the economic downturn. Now we are seeing that areas relying on green jobs to bring them out of the downturn are wasting taxpayer dollars and the time of students hoping for one of these rare green jobs.