Green Jobs to the Rescue in Minnesota?

While Minnesota might have fewer of those jobs than expected, the construction industry will take all it can get.

The recession has been hard on Minnesota's construction industry. Since July 2005, the construction workforce has shrunk by one-third -- a staggering loss of 48,000 jobs, according to state officials.

Now they're pinning hopes on the renewable energy sector to pick up some of the slack, and while such projects continue to be built, that sector, too, has been affected by a slowdown.

Two major Twin Cities-based construction employers -- Mortenson and Kraus-Anderson -- are among those working on renewable energy-related projects providing much-needed jobs in a bleak employment landscape. Meanwhile, an array of other companies are using state grants to train workers for the green jobs of the future.

Just how many construction workers are being employed for green projects isn't precisely known, partly because the definition of "green" is malleable. It's a subjective measurement, but the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is taking a shot at getting a handle on it through a study funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Using its existing jobs vacancy survey and following up with additional questions about "green" jobs, DEED imposed relatively restrictive criteria on the "greenness" of the positions and found in preliminary results that there were 488 such openings in Minnesota in March, representing about 1.8 percent of all job vacancies.

The study's authors noted that more than one-third of them were in the environmental remediation and cleanup sector. They also found fewer green construction industry job openings than they had expected. Part of the reason may have been that the survey was conducted in the seasonally slow winter months, but the devastating effects of the recession were also blamed.

See the next pages of the story on Star Tribune. By Don Jacobson. August 29, 2010.