When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first set up its workforce development training programs (called Brownfields Job Training Grants Program), the aim was to provide education in brownfield remediation and reclamation under the EPA’s Superfund program.
The first seeds of these training programs emerged  in the early 1990s. The first grants were established in 2000. Now, to reflect the administration’s focus on, and dedication to, a renewable energy future, the program is taking on a new name  - Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants Program – and an expanded goal. Future training will reach beyond mere site remediation and into “green” energy venues.
Trainees will receive instruction in such renewable and sustainable energy vectors as energy efficiency  and energy auditing , building weatherization , solar panel installation, and even sustainable building  techniques.
This round of funding is aimed at 21 governmental entities and non-profit organizations in 20 states, each of which will receive up to $300,000 to enable tomorrow’s “green” workforce, which will be taken primarily from low-income and minority populations, as well as the currently unemployed and under-employed.
So far, the program  has given out more than $35 million to train more than 6,683 individuals, more than 4,400 of whom have since graduated to full-time employment in environmental disciplines with an average starting hourly wage of $14.65.
There is no doubt that Americans need jobs. Unemployment now stands at 9.2 percent . Some of the unemployed have run out of benefits, even though the government extended benefits this year beyond the 26-week limit. As of May, half of all unemployed  had been without work for 22 weeks. Many of them have lost jobs in sectors like manufacturing, banking, and finance that will likely not see significant hiring within the decade.
New jobs  have to come from somewhere, and where better than renewable energy, which will help free the nation from the dangerous uncertainty inherent in foreign oil.
Renewable energy will also help supplant the fossil-fuel pollution debt our children and grandchildren face in the form of carbon taxes  if we continue to burn coal, oil and gas. More importantly, renewable energy carries enormous “curb appeal” with new graduates  seeking green jobs for the moral high ground it allows them to claim.
Some traditionalists, a few journalists , and many Republicans can be heard protesting that green jobs aren’t “real.” In fact, as Grist reports , they are as real as steel; American solar workers now outnumber steelworkers by about 20,000, and that number continues to grow as the country outsources steel to China and turns attention to making more technologically sophisticated solar panels, Fresnel lenses and wind or wave turbines.
This position is supported by a Brookings Institution  study showing that the clean energy sector not only has more workers than the fossil fuel industry, but that its 2.7 million workers support the lion’s share of U.S. manufacturing jobs, at a wage 20 percent higher than the average population.
This same coterie complains about President Barack Obama’s failure to produce  enough clean energy jobs to offset persistent unemployment. Pundits forget that the president, and the American people, literally inherited a recession from the very Republicans who are doing all the grousing – an inheritance that could have been avoided  if the Bush administration had acknowledged reports of problems in the housing market, and taken greater control of the financial markets.
And, as economist Robert Reich pointed out in his recent Christian Science Monitor blog,  Republican demands to cut the deficit are largely self-serving, aimed at next year’s election. In the absence of private sector incentives, the government must act. Cutting the deficit will only make the situation worse.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but what does need to happen is for the country to spend, and the EPA is taking the right tack; spending money to train tomorrow’s clean energy workforce.