Thursday, September 8, 2011

Green Jobs: Greener Pay

It used to be that a Georgia high school graduate could find a decent job – in retail, construction, or even banking. Those days are long gone (although just last year a well-known businessman in South Georgia was heard saying that he had done well enough for himself, thank you very much, with a high school diploma and he saw no need for his son to go to college – really!) – and even that college degree we now know everyone needs is no longer enough. Specialization is required, expertise, a niche, an area of deep knowledge, coupled with interest, curiosity, dedication and commitment.

This is particularly true in technical and scientific fields. No one becomes a robotics expert without it, NASA still needs aerospace engineers, and the renewable energy fields thirst for it. Whether it’s building and running Georgia’s next biomass plant, constructing and operating a wind farm in the North Sea, or installing India’s largest photovoltaic field, the jobs are there, talent is in demand and salaries are getting greener by the year.

According to Simply Hired, the average renewable energy job in August 2011 paid $61,000. That compares with averages of $49,000 for a loan specialist and $42,000 for a retail store manager. Salaries for environmental engineers are typically above $75,000, and way back in 2008 supply chain / logistics jobs paid $109,000 and more to professionals with a master’s degree.

According to Bernard Vanderlande, Managing Partner of Tula International, a local retained executive search and talent acquisition firm that specializes in renewable energy industries, a scarcity of experienced leaders is driving competition in the sectors, resulting in higher compensation and greater benefits.

The son of the man in South Georgia who believes a college education is not that important will no longer be able to find a job pumping gas; he may find one harvesting trees for a biomass plant at $8 to $12 an hour. His classmate who is heading for MIT, meanwhile, has his sights set on that six-figure paycheck. Greener pay for green jobs -- education makes the difference.

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