PICO BLVD — A recent report by the U.S. Labor Department Inspector General raises questions about the effectiveness of clean-energy training programs funded through the 2009 stimulus bill at actually creating jobs.
According to the report, the impact of the Recovery Act Green Jobs training program has been “limited” in terms of the number of graduates that have gone on to get jobs in the industry.
The report examined 97 training grants totaling $435.4 million based on grantee data as of June 30, 2012. According to the report, 113,247 people were served, roughly 90 percent of the total number targeted.
Of those, 47 percent already had jobs and 49 percent of participants were individuals in need of updated training related to the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. Another 42 percent were unemployed. Some fell into multiple categories.
Although many were served, approximately 38 percent got employment. Half of those retained those jobs for at least six months, although that figure only includes people hired in or before December 2011.
An analysis of eight grantees selected for an in-depth review showed bad reporting and tracking, with many unable to provide supporting documentation for people reported to have entered employment.
“The inability to document reported program outcomes raises questions about what was achieved with the significant investment represented by this program,” the report reads.
In a letter attached to the report, Jane Oates, the assistant secretary for employment and training, noted that half of the grants are still active with some extending until June 2013, and the office should expect the performance numbers will increase.
The inspector general also ignored other data available to calculate performance, including the number of participants placed in training-related employment before finishing the program, or the number of workers that kept their jobs as a result of the grant-funded services.
“The data presented in the (Office of the Inspector General) report therefore provides an incomplete view of individual grantee performance and impact,” she wrote.
The Santa Monica Community College District received federal stimulus money to support education on solar panel installation, building energy efficiency and green construction, according to the state government.
That money came through a Clean Energy Workforce Training Program grant, and was expected to reach 362 trainees, according to the California Energy Commission.
Although that money was given through the federal stimulus, it does not appear to be part of the three pathways examined by the report, namely the State Energy Section Partnership, Pathways out of Poverty and the Energy Training Partnership.
That could not be confirmed with the California Energy Commission as of Friday afternoon.
Deonta Smith, an alternative energy analyst with IBISWorld Inc., a Los Angeles-based industry research firm, said that those training programs offered by SMC are in fields that he expects will boom in coming years because of energy efficiency standards built into new construction rules.
Jobs that hinge on alternative energy also look good because 27 states require that 10 percent of energy come from alternative sources and other big investments in solar technology, he said.
There is some uncertainty, however, with Congress staring down the edge of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a series of spending cuts and tax hikes set for next year if Congress cannot make some headway on cutting down the deficit.
“So far, business is booming for this industry but we don’t know what’s going to happen for the upcoming fiscal cliff,” Smith said. “Spending could be cut back on alternative energy activities.”

ashley@smdp.com

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