The Stimulus: How to Create Jobs Without Them All Going to Skilled Professionals and White Male Construction Workers

The stimulus plan will create jobs repairing and upgrading the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools. And it will kick-start alternative, non-fossil based sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and so on); new health-care information systems; and universal broadband Internet access.

It’s a two-fer: lots of new jobs, and investments in the nation’s future productivity.

But if there aren’t enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most — women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed — will be shut out.

What to do? There’s no easy solution to either dilemma. But there’s no reason to think about “green jobs” as simply high-tech. Many low-income and low-skilled workers — women as well as men — could be put directly to work providing homes and businesses with more efficient and renewable heating, lighting, cooling, and refrigeration systems; installing solar panels and efficient photovoltaic systems; rehabilitating and renovating old properties, and improving recycling systems. “Green Jobs Corps” teams could be trained to evaluate and advise homeowners and businesses on these and other means of conserving energy.

People can be trained relatively quickly for these sorts of jobs, as well as many infrastructure j0bs generated by the stimulus — installing new pipes for water and sewage systems, repairing and upgrading equipment, basic construction — but contractors have to be nudged both to provide the training and to do the hiring.

I’d suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people withincomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. And at least 2 percent of project funds should be allocated to such training. In addition, advantage should be taken of buildings trades apprenticeships — wich must be fully available to women and minorities.

Originally published at Robert Reich’s Blog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

3 Responses to "The Stimulus: How to Create Jobs Without Them All Going to Skilled Professionals and White Male Construction Workers"

  1. Anonymous   January 22, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    You say that whites males dominate the construction trades. You’re wrong about that. Perhaps the numbers are off because there are so many undocumented Hispanic workers whose income and employment status goes unreported. In my state, California, most construction workers are Hispanic. Do you plan to exclude them as well?

  2. Anonymous   January 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    The white working class male has been targeted for destruction by the Democrats for about thirty years, so this is no surprise. But don’t think the Republican Party is looking out for the white working male, either. The GOP talks a good game during elections, but once elected, the only white guys they work for are the ones on Wall Street, corporate board rooms, and the country clubs. If you work a regular job at a wage, live in the burbs, the GOP doesn’t give a damn about you until they need your vote. The GOP might even be a bigger enemy than the Dems. Either way, the white working male literally has no representation in this country.

    • Guest   August 6, 2009 at 12:01 am

      AMEN TO THAT!!!!!