Labor Department awards millions of dollars in college grants for scarce ‘green jobs’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The Department of Labor has issued several million dollars in grants to community colleges and specialized universities around the country to train students for “green jobs” in renewable energy fields. While the grants are supposed to fund the future “rank and file” workers of the renewable energy industry, there’s a glaring problem the DOL seemingly overlooked — those jobs are either non-existent or scarce.

A former college official who has applied for these grants and has in-depth experience working with the Department of Labor and the Department of Education told The Daily Caller that colleges will often fudge expected job placement numbers just to get extra government cash.

“On ground level – it’s a real struggle – my grant writers came to me and honestly said, ‘I don’t have any job projections, what do I tell them?’ You do your best to make up job numbers,” said the former college official, who wished to remain anonymous to prevent jeopardizing future job opportunities. “But it’s not like lying – it’s just guessing what we might be able to do in a best case scenario, but you don’t say it’s not likely for many jobs.”

The former college official told TheDC that, though his college received five different “green jobs” grants from the Department of Labor to train students, no program has been set up yet.

“I can tell you, one, at least at my college, we’ve been very slow to get these grants underway,” he said. “In terms of those programs going, what’s the rate of success on these programs? I don’t think the DOL could produce very strong job numbers on these programs.”

Bill Wilson of not-for-profit group Americans for Limited Government told TheDC these programs and grants are nothing more than a collection of buzzwords, as they don’t serve any practical purpose.

“Congress needs to cut these vanity ‘green job’ promotion projects out of the budget, it is a waste of money and an insult to the American taxpayer to fund these thinly veiled environmental political rallies,” Wilson said in an e-mail.

It’s not like these grants are being given to research and development programs at big name schools focusing on developing new renewable energy technology, either. They’re being given to universities and community colleges to train students in technical or associate degree programs to work in yet-to-be-developed fields. Many of the grants are promised to colleges that pledged to push “green jobs” or “new energy technology,” but don’t go into much more detail about how they plan to go about doing that.

For instance, Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Ala., received more than $3.4 million to help train 175 people, both those who are unemployed and high school students, in “energy-efficiency technology.” That translates into more than $20,000 per person, and many of the trainees likely won’t be able to secure jobs simply because there aren’t very many companies in the U.S. hiring for what they are being trained to do.

Then, there’s Kern Community College District in Bakersfield, Calif., which was granted about $2.7 million for similar training programs for 650 people. There’s also the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc., in Harrisonburg, Va., which got about $5 million to help 1,010 “unemployed and dislocated workers” learn “current and future employer needs” in green technology manufacturing, solar and wind energy support and efficiency assessment and retrofitting for existing energy consumers.

The former college official told TheDC that, though solar and wind are emerging energy sources and though some people around the country are interested in making their homes or businesses “greener,” he thinks there isn’t enough business to support the people being trained to go into these industries. Colleges, he said, are simply incapable of turning down free government money.