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Building a greener workforce

PENNSYLVANIA is struggling - like many states - to combat the recession, fill a large deficit and put people to work.

PENNSYLVANIA is struggling - like many states - to combat the recession, fill a large deficit and put people to work.

The federal economic stimulus will certainly help. With this funding, Pennsylvania can invest in infrastructure projects that will create thousands of jobs fixing our aging roads and bridges. The construction projects will also require people to make asphalt, cement, steel and other products used in road, bridge and water system rehab. It's the right plan because it puts Americans to work rebuilding America.

But we can't solely rely on Congress. We need to foster an environment that creates jobs in industries that will be an integral part of our future.

Clean-energy technology is a promising industry for the state. The development of this industry could create jobs, revitalize our economy and move us toward energy independence and a greener environment. Last year, we committed significant state dollars to jump-start our alternative-fuels industry. Now, the new federal stimulus bill will allow us to do even more.

We already have a large and diverse manufacturing base. We also have unemployed skilled laborers who are ready to work and willing to learn. If we can use those skills to create a new work force of "green" jobs, the state could be well-positioned to be a world leader in clean energy. And as a result of the passage of our alternative energy portfolio, Pennsylvania is also committed to having 18.5 percent of our electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. To reach that goal, we'll need a skilled labor force.

Investing in the clean energy industry, therefore, makes sense if we want to create jobs and brighten our economic outlook. Specifically, Pennsylvania is focusing on several key industries, including bioenergy technology and wind, solar and geothermal power. Already, there's a bipartisan plan to strengthen the state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act by increasing the use of renewable energy sources and developing new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It's a solid plan, but we'll need a strong work force to expand this alternative energy plan. So I've introduced Senate Bill 21, which would create a green work force training program to promote job training related to energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

This program would increase energy efficiency and energy independence in Pennsylvania, while investing in our economy by training employees in cutting-edge industries. Grants would be awarded to applicants with experience in implementing worker training and education programs, the ability to identify individuals who'd benefit from job training related to energy efficiency industries and the ability to leverage additional public and private resources to fund training programs.

We can turn around our economy, build a new industry with new jobs and also improve our environment. *

Democratic State Sen. Shirley Kitchen represents the 3rd Senatorial District in Philadelphia.