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Adapting Skills For The Green Tech Revolution

banerjeeThe recent multi-billion-dollar U.S. stimulus package is paving the way for a smarter national infrastructure, which will inevitably creates job, stimulate economic growth and drive innovation to build a greener world.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re watching an unprecedented opportunity for change with 42 communities throughout the Commonwealth receiving $42.2 million in grants for greening the state. With investments that can reduce energy and reliance on fossil fuels funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, we expect to see efforts around creating a smart energy grid that will help reduce U.S. dependence on non-renewable fuels.

The good news is that the “green” job market is growing in Massachusetts, where the number of clean tech firms is second only to California according to recent research on the clean technology industry (“Role of Stakeholders in the Clean Technology Industry: Push or Pull?” by Daniel Wengrovitz and Preeta Banerjee using Thomson Financial’s VentureXpert database).

Recruiters’ efforts are increasing as new jobs emerge, as evidenced at the recent Green Careers Forum held at Brandeis University where organizations such as the EPA, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Energy Practice, Boston Green Tourism, and Earthwatch all participated.

Green career opportunities span across the business ecosystem. They encompass a wide range of possibilities, from environmental consulting and green product design to clean technology such as solar and wind energy. Further, traditional associated industries are also transitioning into this arena through green investing, environmental law, and an outgrowth of “green” or social entrepreneurs.

Many universities have begun “green” and sustainable MBA programs. We believe governments, industry and academia should collaborate to help today’s students develop the unique skill-set for a successful green career.

This approach is a departure from tradition, in which universities serve to prepare students who are “deep” in one specific discipline — such as computer science, biology or engineering; accounting or business — leaving graduates less prepared to succeed amidst a rapidly changing global marketplace.

Both academics and students need to know that those who understand business principles, have industry knowledge and can add value through the use of technology are going to be essential in this new professional landscape. One might call such individuals a “T” shaped professional.  The shape of the “T” in this instance describes one who is “deep” in a subject such as computer science, engineering or finance but who also possesses “broad” knowledge across many subjects, including business and public policy.

The professionals of the future will have a hybrid set of skills. They’ll serve as project leaders, enterprise architects, systems analysts and business process engineers working on projects that will make energy use smarter and more efficient. Information technology knowledge will remain critical to this mission. However, students working in green tech jobs will also need to broaden themselves and learn about a myriad of industries, functional areas and, how to operate successfully in various global cultures.

Universities, governments and industry must be committed to helping future graduates bring to the workforce the critical ability to think outside the boundaries of their chose disciplines. Collaborating with a strong corporate partner ensures that a university can develop a curriculum that remains current with the demands of the rapidly changing marketplace.  In doing so, we hope to develop leaders who will not only enhance shareholder value in their chosen companies, but also serve as global citizens who will deliver sustainable business solutions in their communities across the world.

The entire academic and business ecosystem should be committed to training students and IT professionals to provide them with the critical skills that combine technology literacy and creativity to ultimately enable them to stand out amongst the competition and land positions in emerging green job areas.

Boston-area resident Preeta Banerjee is on the faculty of Brandeis’ International Business School specializing in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.Brandeis has launched a new “Global Green” MBA concentration that allows students to understand how to address issues such as economic and social development, corporate governance, and environmental policy into their future practice of business. Mark Hanny leads IBM’s Academic Initiative from Massachusetts to prepare academics and students for future business opportunities.

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