Theses Master's

Green Jobs, Green Skills, and the Green Economy: A Survey of New York, with Broader Implications

Robinson, Brandon

To borrow from Van Jones's book on the green economy, we have a “dual problem” on our hands. First, that we continue to damage the environment by our destructive practices; and second, that we have a large group of people that were laid off during the last economic regime, because of the supposed insufficiency of their skillsets. There exists a solution to both these problems, and it comes in the form of green jobs.

This thesis was undertaken, in part, because of a lack of clarity in the scholarly literature about the nature of green jobs: which jobs are they? and what do they require in the way of skills? The aim of this paper is to restart the conversation surrounding green jobs by showing evidence of a broad-based economic transformation that is primed for the previously maligned, and their likely level of skills.

To accomplish this, I had to adopt an understanding of green jobs that allowed me to see the broad-based transformation, and that understanding was to defer to the firm as the main determinant for what makes a job green. From there, I picked up where the Bureau of Labor Statistics left off, and associated their findings with the economy of the state of New York. And, using a mix of files from the federal and state governments, I pieced together a picture of the green economy—one that would be relevant to those with less formal education.

I found, among other things, that the green economy does lean toward occupations that are typically romanticized in the literature (those in production and construction); but, also, that office work is an important entry point into the green economy for those that would not–or could not–seek employment in the aforementioned.

With regard to skills, I found that more than any other skill type, jobs suited to this population depend heavily on the proficiency of basic skills. This finding runs contrary to a pervasive idea in the literature that propounds the need for technical skills and training as related to green jobs.

This thesis offers a look, through a broad lens, at the occupations that are being affected by greener industry practices, and the skills that are needed to be included in this oncoming economic paradigm.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Beauregard, Robert
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 30, 2017