Van Jones: Green Jobs Are His Mission

Yale Law grad Van Jones and his nonprofit catalyzed the Green Jobs Act, providing $120 million a year to train workers for jobs in solar and renewable energy.

You’d think a Yale law school graduate would aim for a career that brings power and money. Van Jones’ career choice made friends wonder if he was crazy: He set out to “move urban youth from jail cells to solar cells.”

Appointed by President Obama as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Jones' job is to help shape the administration's energy and climate policy so that climate solutions produce jobs and justice for all Americans. As the founder of Green for All and author of The Green Collar Economy, he's a longtime green-jobs training advocate who's been honored by everyone from George Lucas to Time magazine.

Jones says America will need legions of “green collar” workers to outfit the green revolution — creating solar panels, biofuels and wind farms. This green-collar workforce, he says, is a new way out of poverty for Americans who are falling behind in the job market.

“My closest advisers told me I’d never raise enough money to even pay my own salary,” Jones recalls. “But I followed my heart and worked hard; and the people, money, angels and mentors I needed to succeed all showed up.”

He put those resources to work, founding the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and later catalyzing the Green Jobs Act of 2007 with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The act provides $120 million a year to train 35,000 workers for jobs in the clean energy sector.

Jones says his path-less-traveled is rewarding in ways the corporate route wouldn’t be. “I’m not rich, but I have enough,” he says. “I don’t have any power, but I’ve attended the World Economic Forum at Davos and I’ve gotten legislation passed. I get to tell my Mom that I met Al Gore and Bill Clinton to get things done.

“You have to listen deep inside to what you think should happen, not to what people think could happen,” he adds. “Then other people start trying to help you from falling on your face.”
Learn more about the Green Jobs initiative and the Ella Baker Center's Green for All campaign.

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