Green jobs subject at roundtable in Dot

p>ACORN and the Boston Climate Action Network hosted a Green Jobs Roundtable at the Vietnamese American Community Center on Charles Street March 3. City officials and job training providers met with community members to discuss how to promote energy efficiency in Boston neighborhoods through the development of a homegrown green collar workforce.

"Our mission is if you train people to earn a good living they will be good citizens, contributing to the community," said Kathleen Lynch of the Ben Franklin Institute of Technology.

Large-scale energy efficiency initiatives in the Boston area like the Cambridge Energy Alliance (CEA) - devoting $100 million to reducing local energy demand - and the nascent Boston Energy Alliance that will leverage even more money, will inevitably create jobs, she said.

"Our goal is to help Boston be part of the climate solution," said Loie Hayes of the Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN). In conjunction with ACORN and Community Labor United, Hayes said BCAN's green jobs coalition is "trying to beat the drum to make sure people know a big change is coming, and show the powers that be that people of low or moderate income want these jobs and services."

Hayes expects that the number of green collar jobs to increase 10-fold in the years to come, and she hopes Dorchester is one of the communities that gets the benefits.

Paula Paris of JFY Networks said her group is focusing their green collar job training programs on the unemployed and working poor - "people for whom the high tech boom has passed them by," she said. JFY Networks provides education and training for youth; jobs for adults. These people are capable and employable, Paris said, but "they don't have the training for the jobs that exist in Boston." From building analysts to bicycle repairmen, Paris said there are opportunities for everyone to go green in new ways. "A green economy will reshape the economy of the country," Paris said.

In Dorchester, the average heating system functions at 60 percent efficiency, Dyen said, while modern equipment is 98 percent efficient. Eighty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from existing buildings and with Mayor Thomas Menino's recent requirement that new public and private buildings meet green standards, the focus in Boston is on revamping existing residential and commercial buildings to make them more efficient.

"We need to do something really dramatic really quickly," said Susanne Rasmussen, director of environmental and transportation planning in Cambridge. CEA plans to make 20,000 Cambridge buildings more efficient in the next five years; it is the largest project of its kind in the country. Brad Swing, Boston's director of energy policy, said that the city of Boston is another year behind Cambridge, though they are using CEA's structure as a non-profit, loan-based program in developing the Boston Energy Alliance.

So far, neither project has committed to a program that would give job priority to minorities, at-risk youth, or criminal offenders. Rasmussen said that CEA's short-term plan is to build on the skills that working trades people already have, debriefing them on the new technology of energy efficient building. Swing said that the large-scale of Boston's green jobs workforce development initiative will inevitably bring new people into new jobs, though at this stage of the planning process, nothing is final.

BFIT's Kathleen Lynch said she hopes the city of Boston will follow through and take advantage of already existing job training programs that work with underserved populations. The next step, she said, is to "go back to public officials and put their feet to the fire…Words are wonderful if they're put into action and that's what we're looking for here."

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