Hawaii Needs A Green Jobs Corps

Hawaii is facing record unemployment levels — the worst in the nation and the worst in U.S. history. How are we going to dig ourselves out of this hole?

A new green jobs program could be a large part of restoring our society and our economy. Like the Civilian Conservation Corps created by President Franklin Roosevelt with the help of a willing Congress in the 1930s, a new Green Jobs Corps could be created with federal leadership, or could be created at the state or county level first.

In fact, the new Biden administration has recently announced plans to create a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative as part of a package of policies to address climate change, energy, resilience and the economy.

This is great news at the federal level and we hope that local and state policymakers are able to tie new green jobs programs in with these federal efforts.

We are promoting a Big Island version of the Green Jobs Corps and hope that this idea can be extended to other islands also.

A resolution is scheduled to be heard by the Hawaii County Council in February, which would create a Green Jobs Corps that expands upon existing efforts by groups like Kupu, which currently offer green jobs for youth.

Among the many trades that could be part of a Green Jobs Corps: Solar technicians to install solar on county and other public buildings and parking lots.

Doug Murray/FPL

The kind of green jobs we envision for employing large numbers of our unemployed and able-bodied people include:

  • Solar technicians to install solar on county and other public buildings and parking lots
  • EV charging technicians to install and maintain EV chargers around the island for the growing number of EVs we need to transition away from fossil fuels
  • Energy efficiency technicians to install energy efficient lighting, A/C and windows in public and private buildings
  • Trail crews to maintain and improve existing trails and to create a significant new network of trails and bike paths around the island, making walking, biking, jogging and skating throughout the island a real possibility
  • Facilities crews to maintain and improve county, state and federal park facilities and to build new recreation and park facilities like basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, playgrounds, etc.
  • Farming and gardening crews to maintain, improve and create new community gardens on public lands and to teach courses in local sustainable agriculture and permaculture
  • Recycling and upcycling crews to improve our recycling rates and reduce solid waste
  • Educators for all ages and educational levels to teach about green energy, green transportation, better waste management, parks and trails maintenance, and local agriculture and permaculture
  • And many others as long as they will improve our island’s sustainability, equity and resiliency (the three objectives of our Think B.I.G. initiative)

There are some great models for a new Green Jobs Corps already being done here in Hawaii. Kupu, as mentioned above, runs green jobs programs for our youth. A large expansion of this program would be beneficial but we recommend expanding it beyond youth programs in order to help the large numbers of adults who are out of work and would appreciate the chance for new green jobs.

Here on the Big Island, we have many able-bodied adults eager to work on great projects that benefit their community and their environment. Resilience, equity and sustainability are our guiding principles for developing these new green jobs programs.

We’re excited to see what results from the growing recognition — at the local, state and federal level — of the urgency and promise of these issues.

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