WIP Taj Eldridge

Sustainability is no longer a stand-alone idea and that’s creating a growing demand for green workers

A conversation with Taj Eldridge, managing director of climate innovation, JFFLabs

In this episode of the Work in Progress podcast, Taj Eldridge, managing director of Climate Innovation at JFFLabs, joins me to talk about how the rapidly growing demand for workers in jobs that are addressing climate change.

The climate is changing and we need millions of green workers to help prepare for, recover from, and adapt to these changes. And we’re not just talking about solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians. In fact, these jobs make up a very small fraction of the green jobs and potential green jobs out there.

“We believe that all jobs can be and will be green jobs,” says Eldridge. “The reason for that is because we think that sustainability is no longer going to be this offset by itself idea. It is encompassing everything that we’re doing, from what we’re putting inside of our bodies, how our food has grown to what we’re putting on our bodies, the clothing that we’re wearing and the materials that we’re having as well.”

He adds that legacy companies in legacy industries are also thinking of new ways to become more sustainable to attract a new market. “We see that the population is pushing it, the population is wanting this. And I think that’s the difference from what we’ve seen before.”

In the Green Jobs Now report prepared by Lightcast for WorkingNation earlier this year, we estimate that there is the potential for 51 million green jobs jobs helping repair the damage of climate change or preventing future damage nationwide.

Some will be new jobs and some will be jobs that are redesigned with sustainability in mind. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will repair our roads and refurbish our bridges, is creating opportunities in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and architecture.

“I love the fact that our federal government decided to have these laws in place from the Infrastructure Act to the CHIPS and Science Act, and so many others, to really move us forward,” says Eldridge. “I also think that this idea of climate resiliency, the focus on climate and workforce is a global idea, (but) we’re in the adolescent phase. There’s a lot of growth. There’s a lot of changes and there’s a lot of organic changes.”

Helping workers and job seekers find the career opportunities connected to that movement into the green space is the mission of the Climate-Resilient Employers for a Sustainable Tomorrow (CREST) initiative, funded by Ares Charitable Foundation. CREST aims to close the gap between the demand for skilled green workers and the training needed to fill those positions.

JFFLabs is one of the partners along with World Resources Institute (WRI) in the initiative. It’s a nationwide effort, touching communities big and small.

Eldridge explains, “We are working with local regional opportunities, organizations, municipalities, universities, schools, and community colleges, in order to train and place individuals into these jobs. We have a quantitative goal. The goal is 25,000 jobs within five years, but that’s the minimum goal.”

“The hope is that the work that we’re doing is catalytic, that other organizations would come on and see the issues that we’re attacking and add to it, because we’re going to need more organizations focus on this, more partners and everyone else,” he adds.

Eldridge and I go into detail about the types of climate-resilient jobs that are being created through this green jobs movement. We also talk more about the CREST initiative, including its support for entrepreneurs who have starting companies with protecting and repairing the environment in mind, and its support of micro, small, and medium enterprises in India that are key to the global supply chain.

You can listen to our podcast here or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

WorkingNation produced a digital magazine about the CREST initiative Climate and Careers which you can read here.

Episode 298: Taj Eldridge, managing director of climate innovation, JFFLabs
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here
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