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Retrained for green jobs, but still waiting on work

Laurance Anton and students from the College of Central Florida are playing key roles in the development of green jobs across the nation.

But now, after nearly two years of being out of work and a series of classes that have not led to a job, his optimism is dimming.

"What is the point of giving somebody the tools to do something but to have nowhere to use them?" he asked. "I think it's a great program, but I don't see the connection with all the training and jobs. And I need a job."

Christine Bageant, 45, also jumped at the opportunity to train in green jobs, after losing her position at the county library. She viewed the new classes as an opportunity to "get in on the ground floor of something big."

Since then she has earned similar training certificates as Arandia. A few months ago she started looking for work as a painter. She thought her newly acquired expertise in abating lead paint would make her a hot commodity.

But many of the painting contractors she has interviewed with are tiny companies, with no more than two or three employees. They are struggling to survive, and Bageant's expertise in lead abatement has left them unimpressed.

"Right now they are blowing it off," she shrugged. "They don't think it's important."

Officials who helped develop the training program nod knowingly when asked about the difficulty graduates are having landing jobs.

"I think this is a great program," said Peter J. Tesch, president and chief executive of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp. "Applying it to real life, that is the challenge. In a place like Florida everybody's talking the talk, but they're not walking the walk. The market place has not caught up to the technical training and skill sets that have been provided these people."

That much was obvious at a recent ceremony for 15 graduates of a solar electric training class. The students beamed proudly as family members took pictures and program officials offered words of wisdom.

Then, one-by-one, they walked up front to receive their certificates. But rather than serving as a passport to a job, the certificates were more like IOUs to be redeemed sometime in the distant future.

"There is significant job creation potential in clean energy. But it is not revealing itself quickly or clearly," said Jerone Gamble, executive manager of continuing education at the College of Central Florida, and a chief architect of the green jobs training program. "In the time being, we're really selling hope."


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