Work Scarce for Obama's Green Job Training Grads

Multi-million dollar program to train low-income workers falls short.

ByABC News
April 20, 2011, 4:41 PM

May 4, 2011— -- Brian Williams has dreamed of working in the solar field ever since he first heard about it in the 1970s. So when a new green job training program arrived in his hometown of Ocala, Fla., Williams, now 53, signed up immediately.

The program – one of many around the country -- is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and geared toward helping unemployed workers, low-income individuals, high school dropouts or people with criminal records.

When he joined one year ago, Williams was unemployed. During his training at Workforce Connection, a non-profit organization in Ocala, he learned basic skills, such as job interviewing, and more advanced ones, such as solar installation.

And while he's no longer unemployed – he runs an auto repair shop at his house – he couldn't find a job in the green field since graduating from the program in February. Not only were there very few green jobs available in Ocala, the companies he did apply to didn't end up hiring him.

"Given the economy, I really wasn't surprised," he told "I didn't really expect to necessarily get hired right away, but I would've liked to."

Williams isn't alone. According to the most recent data from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute, there were 3,586 graduates of Department of Labor-funded green job training programs as of Sept. 30, 2010, but only 466 entered new jobs upon completion of the program.

Economy Hurts Green Job Training Grads

Stimulus money for green industry training was funneled through the Labor Department, which reports that $490 million out of the $500 million outlined in the Recovery Act has been awarded; most of the grants were awarded in January 2010.

But many of these training programs say the green jobs are not out there.

As of April 15, only 55 of Workforce Connection's 304 green job training program graduates have found jobs. Some of those jobs are not even green. Workforce has spent about half of its $2.9 million grant and is now working with the Labor Department to modify it to focus more on placing graduates in jobs, rather than training.

Asheville Buncombe Christian Ministry, in Asheville, N.C., began a green job training program funded by stimulus dollars in March 2010. As of April 15, ABCCM has placed 51 of its 111 graduates in jobs, not all of them green. "As far as green jobs are concerned, the jobs are definitely not waiting there for the graduates," said Susan Garrett, ABCCM's Green Jobs Director.

In Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board is seeing mixed results. Its weatherization training program has had a high job placement rate, with 15 of its 23 graduates being employed, as of April 15. But out of more than 100 participants in its "Pathways to Green Jobs" basic skills and green jobs training, only 22 are now employed.

LVWIB's executive director, Nancy Dischinat, said the economy has a lot to do with the lack of green jobs, but she remains optimistic. "At least we have growth potential there. We have projected openings," said Dischinat, referring to a report produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry that projects 41,190 new green jobs by 2012.