On the other hand, there is also a great deal of rhetoric and hype about this phenomenon and we should stand back and analyze what is really happening. The truth is that a massive economic transition doesn't happen overnight. Training and hiring millions of people for green jobs demands time, financial investment, and an adjustment of expectations about the very look and feel of a 21st century labor force that is fostering sustainable change.
I have worked in executive search and recruitment sector for over 20 years and in the environmental sector for 10 years. So I am very excited by the growth in Green Jobs and, in 2007, my partners and I founded a search firm called Bright Green Talent, which places environmental leaders and professional in green organizations worldwide. Our understanding of the hurdles we've yet to overcome in this field comes from the daily conversations we have with environmental and socially conscious companies about their needs and challenges.
As specialist recruiters in San Francisco and London, every day we see and wrestle with the emerging realities of the green labor market. For example, we see how America's lack of investment in engineering talent has left it short-staffed of renewable energy modelers and LEED Certified HVAC professionals to fuel this green labor revolution.
Indeed, there are a number of barriers to the development of the Green Economy and its creation of new employment. When we are able to overcome these barriers we will make major progress in our search for solutions to our most pressing environmental problems.
1) The Impact of a Recession. Sean Martin, a Principal at Blu Skye Consulting, a sustainability consulting firm in San Francisco, says that their clients are adapting quickly to the troubled economy: "The nature of the requests [we receive] are getting much more focused on cost savings. While that element has always been there, it seems to be louder as of late."
Going green can lead to greater organizational efficiency and long-term costs savings, though it's often perceived as an added burden in a tough economic time. Companies that are driven by green missions are especially challenged to prove their worth and excellence. Credibility and long-term relationships are essential to encourage green innovation and, in the process, demonstrate to skeptics that green business practices truly do deliver a measurable return on investment.
2) Talent shortages. The lack of qualified workers is impeding the growth of many green industries, and there's little sign of relief. Bright Green works with Silicon Valley solar companies that have received tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars in venture capital funding, but, even so, can't find experienced businesspeople to put that money to good use. The capabilities and knowledge needed to be successful is so new that even seasoned executives, brought into companies, often need a crash course in the art of effective, green business practice.
To make matters more difficult, organizations are applying 20th century hiring expectations to 21st century industries. As recruiters we consistently have to address the gap between the perceived skill set necessary to succeed in a position and the reality of the marketplace.
People simply don't have a dozen years' experience in solar system design or cleantech venture capital. These industries didn't exist back then, and even having five years experience often means you're an old hand. As a consequence, employers are turning to candidates who have a track record in the general business, even if they have neither environmental experience nor even values. Ultimately, these folks may negatively impact their corporate culture as they may not care about the planet, and will end up harming a firm's credibility in the marketplace. The very people who are needed to grow these businesses sometimes risk compromising the mission of their new employer.