The Green Economy wants us 'Boomers'
April 26, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Does anyone else love this time of year, waking up to the sweet smell of freshly cut green grass carried in on the breeze through a bedroom window?

Now that I found my segue into this week’s column, there is another “green” attracting the attention of folks born between 1946 and 1964 . . . you know us . . . we’re the baby boomers.

It seems there is some sort of “Green Army” out there calling us boomers into service.

The non-profit group called the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning or CAEL assists adult’s careers by broadening their education.

A report I read from CAEL said green jobs are, in essence, a “natural fit’ for us boomers.

And by green jobs, I mean energy wind technicians, solar cell designers, installers, energy auditors, and more.

According to research by Pew Charitable Trusts in 2009, the number of green jobs is climbing – up 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007. This is twice the percentage of all other jobs within the same period.

A 2008 US Conference of Mayors report states green jobs will signify “the fastest growing segment of the United States economy.”

One of the CAEL green report papers says the boomers have the assortment of skills necessary to make the switch to working in the green job sector.

Granted, many of us think about the day when we can blissfully retire into some leisurely existence . . . but, for some of us, this time in our lives will still see us “in the game.”

Personally, I think a few of us will use this time to try our hand in some endeavor we always wanted to do, but couldn’t, for various reasons. Without a doubt, many of us hard-working boomers will still want to make a difference in the world, even when we become a little older.

Our generation won’t be satisfied sitting in rocking chairs – we need to participate.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, the US labor force, made up of men and women 50 years of age and older, remained for the most part unchanged.

The CAEL report also noted boomers were working past the conventional retirement age, even before the country entered the current recession.

The report states how, beginning in the 1990s, the number of workers over the age of 50 increased as a result of the economic downturn, along with the shrinking of retirement investments. This prohibited many people from being able to take an early retirement.

Many boomers also needed to find other work when they found themselves “let go” from their employers.

Some of these people would find work in the same field they previously worked in.

However, the CAEL report said that a significant number of the boomers decided to take a different road and try something new.

It seems that last century’s dream of a leisurely retirement without any challenges are changing into an exciting and rewarding retirement, where some decide to make a real difference in society. These folks have chosen to be working in green jobs or on environmental or health issues. Some have become involved in local government.

Instead of just retiring, many boomers are entering “encore careers” and are discovering fulfillment by contributing their time and talents, involved with societal and environmental challenges.

According to the 2008 MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey, the encore work force in 2008 found adults age 44 to 70 have switched from their customary midlife career line of work to encore careers. This represents 8.4 million people.

Of those in that age group not already in encore careers, half say they are interested in moving into one.

It seems many of these adults surveyed are motivated to use their skills and experience to help others – and working on green and environmental issues is gaining steam.

Thirty-one percent report that “working to preserve the environment is highly appealing,” states the CAEL report.

The CAEL report lists the top three green encore job categories and opportunities.

First, the listings under Energy Efficiency include weatherization installers, weatherization crew leaders, and energy auditors.

Second, under Clean Energy Generation, they list solar contractors and solar installation trainers.

The third category is Conservation and Sustainability. The opportunities listed are advocates, consultants, and outreach workers.

The 17 page CAEL jobs green paper goes into greater detail and can be read at tinyurl.com/yjvz7mp.

You can get to the CAEL web site at www.cael.org.

If you are 55 or better and want to share your talents on a temporary, part-time, or even fulltime basis with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Senior Environmental Employment Program, check out tinyurl.com/y3c8nsk.

Your Bits & Bytes columnist greatly appreciates everyone for the get well wishes.