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Kauai Is Serious About Green Jobs and Opportunities

 

Kaua'i is serious about green jobs and opportunities

I am so glad to see that Kauai is serious about green jobs and opportunities based on the recent Green Workforce Development Summit at Kauai Community College. The speakers for the event highlighted all of the efforts to develop a greener workforce and touched on a few of the obstacles that have been hindering progress and put forth suggestions for working through those issues.

Kauai is Serious About Green Jobs and Opportunities

How can the Garden Isle grow green jobs? The answer depends, to some extent, on who you ask.

It takes carrots and sticks, such as policy standards, tax credits, public benefits fees, transportation goals, feed-in tariffs, net metering, decoupling, reliability standards, grants and technical assistance, said Mark Glick, administrator of the state Energy Office.

Glick was the keynote speaker for the Kaua‘i Green Workforce Development Summit at Kaua‘i Community College on Wednesday.

“The key message,” Glick said, “is Kaua‘i has enough resources to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production.”

The summit was a gathering of government and business leaders, speakers and four panels to discuss green job opportunities and challenges for Kaua‘i.

One of the summit’s organizers and speakers, Dwight Takamine, state director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said one of the bigger challenges of growing green jobs is informing businesses, workers and students about existing opportunities for workforce training and development.

County taking steps

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. outlined the county’s efforts to develop a green workforce, such as creating a Green Team on his staff, expanding bus service, rolling out a Green Streets program, installing photovoltaic equipment on county buildings, and purchasing electric vehicles and installing related EV charging stations.

In March and April, the mayor said the county will be offering free bus ridership for the entire island as part of a marketing effort to encourage people to use the expanded bus services.

“Small steps lead to bigger things,” he said. “We’ve got some great things happening, and we have to keep people engaged.”

The cost of energy

Glick said $5.3 billion to $5.5 billion a year is spent on energy in Hawai‘i, representing almost 10 percent of the state’s GDP. The state’s mission is to deploy a clean energy infrastructure as a catalyst for economic growth, he said, with “focus, leverage and reach” through site control and financing.

The target is high-impact projects, he said, but there has to be public-private partnerships in order to grow Hawai‘i’s green energy sector.

The research and development sector has annual revenues of $100 million, which lends the possibility of creating permanent, high-paying jobs, he added.

One of the keys, he believes, will be connecting neighbor island energy resources through an inter-island electric cable.

The cable between O‘ahu and Kaua‘i would create huge challenges because it would have to be very deep, he said, but the “more energy you can add to the grid, the greater the payback.” He said right now Hawai‘i is leading the country in performance contracts.

Greening the workforce

Jeff Matsu, a Department of Labor special advisor on workforce development, said green jobs represented 2.4 percent of the workforce in 2010 and are expected to grow by 26 percent by the end of this year — and double that percentage by 2018.

“EVs are all the rage,” he said. “We see electric charging stations now at all the hotels.”

With a $1.25 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, Matsu said the department created data sets on Hawai‘i’s green labor pool, all of which were included in a five-volume series.

The top three industries identified were “other” (meaning administrative, technical, waste management, etc.), wholesale/retail and construction.

Matsu said, on average, every house created results in $90,000 in revenue for the state, three jobs and $145,000 in wages and income, which emphasizes the importance of the construction sector for the state’s economy.

The green energy movement is happening, he said, and students are coming down the pipeline, but not quickly.

“That’s a bit of concern,” Matsu said. “Our folks aren’t as prepared as they should be. … We rank No. 1, but not in a good way. We’re under-utilizing our current outflow of graduates.”

KCC offers training

To help meet the needs of the green movement locally, Kaua‘i Community College has developed Ho‘ouluwehi, or the Sustainable Living Institute of Kaua‘i.

KCC’s green programs include courses in sustainable organizations, gardening, farming, commercial and residential aquaponics, solar thermal installation training, and photovoltaic training from the entry level to sales and installation.

Takamine said funding is available for training employees.

Free resources are there, he added, but businesses and employees must seek them out.

For example, eligible employers can be reimbursed for training costs equal to or exceeding 50 percent of the employee’s wages for on-the-job training of new hires.

Visit www.sesphawaii.com for more information, or contact WorkWise Kaua‘i or Tracy Hirano at KCC.

The Employment Training Fund, an employer-referral program, provides tuition assistance for non-credit employee training courses such as computer software programs, management training and professional certifications in areas such as food safety, child education, project management, landscaping and human resources.

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Kauai is serious about green jobs and opportunities for the future. With so much energy focused on the global “greenification” it makes sense to train and prepare the workforce for the transition. We can do this!

~~Aloha Nui Loa

 

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