D.C. job seekers who eagerly anticipated the trickle-down effect of President Obama's promise to invest $150 billion in renewable energy over 10 years and create five million new "green" jobs are still waiting. So are those who relied on D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's pledge to train them for jobs in the new green economy.
Two city residents who enrolled in the D.C. Department of Employment Services' stimulus-funded Sustainable Energy Utility program told the Washington City Paper that they were being paid $14.50 an hour to hand out energy-efficient light bulbs door-to-door, a job that requires minimal training.
The mayor's One City One Hire initiative pays 90 percent of participants' salaries under a contract with Loretta Caldwell, Marion Barry's former human resources director. But Ron Hantz, a laid-off mortgage officer, and Cynthia Dudley, who spent more than two decades at D.C. Child and Family Services, said they weren't acquiring any new skills that would help them find permanent positions once the funding ran out.
DOES's green job training program, they said, consists of a mere relabeling of other job training programs that have been notoriously unsuccessful in getting out-of-work District residents onto a payroll. Like bogus "charities" that spend more on administrative salaries and fundraising than on actually helping the poor, they burn through a lot of government money with little to show for it.
The dearth of green jobs isn't limited to D.C., even though the extremely broad definition adopted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics allows government officials to include school bus drivers, sanitation workers and bicycle repair shop clerks in the tally. According to the Institute for Energy Research, the Labor Department spent $500 million to train people for green jobs, but only 10.2 percent of the 53,000 participants had one by the end of 2011. And a $9 billion federal program to expand solar and wind energy produced only 910 directly related jobs.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Collaborative's Green Consortium admits that most green job openings in D.C. are for scientists, architects and engineers. But the majority of job seekers in neighborhoods where unemployment is higher than the national average are not qualified -- or hired -- for these positions. They were promised good-paying green jobs but given light bulbs to pass out instead.
In the city that gave Obama more than 90 percent of its votes -- twice -- that's got to hurt.