GAO: Only Half of Workers Trained by Labor Dept. Got ‘Green Jobs'

By Barbara Hollingsworth | July 26, 2013 | 5:47 PM EDT

Workers install solar panels

( –  In his 2008 campaign, presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to create 5 million “green jobs” over the next decade. Since 2009, the Labor Department has spent $501 million of stimulus funds to train workers for jobs within the new energy efficiency and renewable energy industries as part of President Obama’s $90 billion green jobs initiative.

But despite training “slightly more individuals than they had projected,” and counting “any job that could be linked, directly or indirectly, to a beneficial environmental outcome,” the Labor Department’s job placements “were at 55 percent of the target,” according to a June report by the Government Accountability Office. (See GAO-13-555.pdf)

Of the 55 percent of trainees who did manage to snag a green job, most found employment in traditional industries, not solar or biofuels, the report noted. “Recovery Act training programs were initiated prior to a full assessment of the demand for green jobs.”

“Labor’s training data show most participants were trained in construction or marketing…[which] incorporated green elements into existing training programs aimed at traditional skills, such as teaching weatherization as part of a carpentry training program.”

And even that 55 percent figure is questionable. According to GAO, “the outcomes of Labor’s green jobs training programs remain uncertain, in part because data on final outcomes were not yet available for about 40 percent of grantees, as of the end of 2012” – four years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed.

“Training-related job placement rates remain unknown because Labor’s Office of Inspector General found these data unreliable.” So nobody’s exactly sure how many job trainees got jobs, let alone green ones.

A report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released in March stated that “in 2011, the percentage of total employment associated with the production of Green Goods and Services increased by 0.1 percentage point to 2.6 percent” of all jobs in the public and private sectors.