VALPARAISO | Occupations allowing workers to conduct home energy audits, repair machines to improve their efficiency and install devices to generate power from renewable sources are a critical part of the jobs landscape in Northwest Indiana, workforce training advocates said Tuesday.
But representatives from the Center of Workforce Innovations and the Institute for Career Development also said people of all ages may need to improve their science, technology and math skills to be able to work in these positions.
The Center of Workforce Innovations and the Merrillville-based Institute for Career Development released "The Greening of Northwest Indiana" report Tuesday to analyze the importance of "green" jobs in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke and Pulaski counties. The Institute for Career Development commissioned the report and funded it under a nearly $4.7 million grant it received in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Nearly 63,500 of Northwest Indiana's workers are employed in what was defined as "high-value greening occupations." The 55 occupations, which include maintenance and repair workers and truck drivers, perform tasks that are important to the region's green economy.
The CWI then analyzed professions that have a high potential for growth in Northwest Indiana and pay wages about the region's median level. Three of the top occupations identified were operating engineers and construction equipment operators, electricians, and property, real estate and community association managers.
Roy Vanderford, director of strategic solutions at the Center of Workforce Innovations, said the different skills people are able to learn in training programs have broader applications to in the region's workforce. He said the learning of principles in conservation and other fields, or "greening," will help people improve their employability in the future.
"As much as anything, we were looking for hope," Vanderford said, speaking to media at the Center of Workforce Innovations offices.
The report also highlighted the "green" investments and practices of the city of Lake Station, the Porter County Career and Technical Center and businesses such as Fair Oaks Farms and SunRise Solar.
The Institute for Career Development used its grant to train about 1,200 members of the United Steelworkers and laid off workers in Indiana, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania in various programs, said Sean Hayden, senior program specialist and communications director.
The grant helped the institute expand its "green" curriculum and helped some participants start energy auditing businesses and earn certifications in wastewater handling operations. Created in 1989, the institute is a work force training program that operates as a result of negotiated benefit between the union and companies.
"We feel the program has been very successful," said Jerry Evans, executive director of the Institute for Career Development.
The grant was part of nearly $100 million made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.