March 7, 2016
The trades are in the forefront of the ecology movement
To their credit, young people today are more environmentally conscious than just about any generation in history. They know that the future well-being of our society depends on conserving energy and water resources and avoiding pollution of the air we breathe and water we drink.
The skilled trades are critical to accomplishing that goal. Plumbers are key players in assuring efficient water usage and preventing cross connections that mix polluted water with fresh water. HVAC technicians install and maintain furnaces and heat pumps that have perhaps the greatest potential for saving energy more than any other residential systems. Electricians are hard at work installing and maintaining some of the most technologically sophisticated digital controls to monitor and reduce energy usage.
All of the skilled trades are involved in different ways with the boom in solar energy. One recent study found that jobs in the U.S. solar power industry are growing almost 12 times faster than overall employment in our country. The solar industry added around 115,000 jobs between 2010 and 2015, a growth rate of 123%. Total solar industry employment totaled a whopping 208,859 last year, adding 35,000 new jobs in 2015 alone. The industry expects to add at least 30,000 more jobs this year.
Most of those solar jobs are for solar panel installers, but it takes much more than solar panels to produce electricity or hot water. Solar also produces work for electricians who connect the panels to household electrical systems, in many cases even feeding electricity back to the grid when the panels produce more electricity than gets used by the building where they are installed. Plumbers and HVAC technicians work with thermal solar systems to heat water and in some cases provide heating and cooling for a household.
Solar is not the only way the skilled trades contribute to a cleaner environment and resource conservation. Modern plumbing fixtures use far less water than the toilets, faucets, washing machines, etc., used by your parents and grandparents. Many plumbing companies are in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Sense program that encourages the installation and replacement of water-conserving plumbing products. Similarly, HVAC contractors are in the forefront of a movement to install and replace ancient energy-gobbling furnaces and heat pumps, along with so-called “smart” thermostats that automatically regulate home temperatures in accordance with homeowner lifestyles.
The skilled trades offer well-paying jobs, but much more than that. It’s hard to put a price on the immense satisfaction that comes when you cash a paycheck knowing that what you did to earn it helps to make this a better world for people alive today and for generations to come.