Rational actors: Americans line up for ‘green job’ courses

America’s workers are wasting little time in responding to the massive government spending planned on green industries in its bid to reduce carbon emissions and provide 5m new jobs. The LA Times looks at students in an 8-week long,  $1,000 “wind technology boot camp” where they learn how to service large wind turbines. Starting pay is $15 to $20 an hour, but “Crack technicians can make six figures a year.”

The story suggests the US might face a shortage of training for new green jobs – the community college course they write about saw its 15 places booked within hours of becoming available.

While the limited number of courses suggests the courses will pay off for most, days spent scampering up wind turbines are not exactly a breeze:

A typical 1.5-megawatt GE unit costs $2.5 million installed. It sits about 30 stories above the ground at the hub, where its three 100-foot-long blades connect to the tower.

Just behind the hub is the housing for the gearbox, drive train and other components. Think of this as the wind technician’s office. Except there’s no elevator. Reaching it means climbing rung by rung on a narrow steel ladder attached to the inside of the tower. An agile worker can do it in less than 10 minutes, several times a day.

Those who do it say it is hard, physical work. And fatalities, though rare, are gruesome: “Workers have plunged to their deaths, been electrocuted and been ground to a pulp by rotating machinery.”

CNN also has a story with similar examples of optimistic career-changers – including a 51-year-old woman – and heavily over-subscribed courses whose graduates are almost guaranteed a job. It also looks at weatherization, on which the US government plans to spend $11bn, and which might need little or no training:

A former construction worker could easily take up a career in home weatherization and energy efficiency, said Bob Logston, owner of Home Energy Loss Professionals (HELP) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Some weatherization steps are as simple as shoving newspaper insulation in a home’s attic, caulking windows and repairing ductwork.

For those considering a career change, the LA Times has a few photos – but sadly none of a technician repairing a real turbine.

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