Public demand has surged for “green” innovations that make cities more environmentally friendly and more pleasant places to live. JFF examined the workforce needed to keep up with demand for green infrastructure systems and found that projected employment growth provides valuable opportunities for low-income, low-skilled workers to earn competitive wages. Our research found good entry-level jobs with some advancement potential, ranging from maintenance of urban gardens to installation of natural systems that manage stormwater flooding. Industry-led efforts to develop the first national green infrastructure certification program may professionalize the field and accelerate job growth.
Green infrastructure work is a significant new component of the environmental sector of the economy, and for good reason. There has been a surge of public demand in recent years for innovations that help cities become greener, more livable, less dependent on costly “grey” infrastructure—traditional systems of pipes, roadways, etc.—and more resilient in the face of hazards like climate change.
Fortunately, investments in green infrastructure are justified not only because of their environmental benefits, but also because of their potential to support good jobs.
While there have been several studies on economic benefits of green infrastructure, there is not detailed information on the green infrastructure workforce or typical compensation for these jobs. We also need more information on the job creation potential of green infrastructure projects.
Our methodology is based upon the key insight that a relatively large public and private green infrastructure workforce in many cities already exists. To closely examine the types of municipal workers, contractors, and grantees who participate in green infrastructure activities, we are conducting an analysis of the green infrastructure workforce in select U.S. cities through a combination of labor market analysis, surveys, and in-depth interviews with high-ranking city officials.
This 18-month initiative will also disseminate key findings and recommendations through a series of webinars, videos, blogs, and other media that aims to inform state and local officials who can shape green infrastructure programs—as well as the general public.
The study will identify:
- The existing network of green infrastructure workers and contractors
- Which occupations might experience hiring growth or expanded training needs as investments in green infrastructure increase
- Whether the green infrastructure workforce growth will provide benefits to lower-income workers, lower-skilled workers, women, and people of color
- The actions that might be taken to increase the economic development and job creation potential of these activities in urban areas
We are currently identifying and contacting cities around the country that have begun making investments in green infrastructure projects and programs. Cities involved in JFF’s study include Ann Arbor (MI), Austin (TX), Charlotte (NC), Denver (CO), Lincoln (NE), and Portland (OR).
We are partnering with Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies at the ILR School. In addition, we are collaborating with an outstanding national advisory group with representatives from the federal government, business and professional associations, environmental organizations, green job advocacy groups, and education/training programs.
We look forward to sharing project updates, blogs, and other resources here!