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Jobs

Prospective energy auditors want green jobs

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Emma Jacobs
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WSKG
Instructor Paul Carroll (right) and student Josh Campbell search a Binghamton fixer-upper house for air leaks.

Home weatherization is renewable energy’s less glamorous, low-tech, little sister. The government and green industry advocates also think it’s a way to create green jobs.

That's why the stimulus invested $5 billion in the government's retrofit program for low-income homes and why NYSERDA will be administering over $100 million through Green Jobs, Green NY. The program was rolled out this month to subsidize energy audits of households making below 200 percent of their area's median income, and to extend loans for making improvements.

But for the construction industry, which has one of the highest unemployment rates nationwide, green jobs offer a promise tempered by what can really only be called a harsh reality.

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“There's very little out there to apply for,” says Jim Charnley, an unemployed carpenter in a course on conducting energy audits offered through Broome Community College. “I mean, quite honestly, I don’t want to cry the blues too much but it’s terribly competitive out there. As I’m sure everybody knows. I mean it’s just unreal. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life."

Holden Dickinson works right now at a moving company, but is looking for an edge so that he can change industries.

“I signed up for a green construction course,” Dickinson explains, “My instructor said, 'If you want to get a job with a construction company, you should get certified.'”

Dickinson's watching the state programs with interest for opportunities. His course's instructor Paul Carroll  predicts that "as time goes on, there will be less need to have those incentives because homeowners will be self-incentivized by the savings. In fact, down the road I think it will be very hard to sell a house to knowledgeable buyers unless you’ve had some weatherization on the house.”

There is some evidence that Carroll’s prediction could pan out. Several cities, including Austin and San Francisco have enacted programs requiring homeowners to have an energy audit done before selling their house.

Unemployment in construction was at nearly 19 percent in November.

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