Are you concerned about our planet? Get a green job

The Droogfontein Solar Power project is located 20km outside Kimberley in the Sol Plaatje municipality in the Northern Cape 
PHOTO: Lucky Nxumalo
The Droogfontein Solar Power project is located 20km outside Kimberley in the Sol Plaatje municipality in the Northern Cape PHOTO: Lucky Nxumalo

Are you concerned about our planet? Do you want to do your part in ensuring a sustainable future for all humans?

Maintaining a sustainable world has never been more important than it is now.

The drought in South Africa, concerns about global climate change, growing enough food to feed the ever-growing global population – all these things need people who can contribute in a variety of jobs.

The department of environmental affairs is at the head of government’s plans to develop effective implementation plans and create green jobs.

According to the department, about 300 000 jobs could be created in South Africa’s renewable energy sector over the next 10 years, of which 20 000 are achievable in the next two years.

If you are interested in a career in what is called the green economy, here are some ideas.

How will green jobs help South Africa?

Greater efficiency in the use of energy, water and materials is a core objective – this will be done by achieving the same economic output (and level of wellbeing) with far less material input.

Green jobs exist in private business and government offices (standard setting, policymaking, permitting, monitoring and enforcement, support programmes, etc).

Some green jobs are easily identifiable, such as those for people employed to install a solar panel or operate a wind turbine.

Others, particularly in supplier industries, may be less identifiable.

For instance, a particular piece of specialty steel may be used to manufacture a wind turbine tower without the steel company’s employees even being aware of that fact.

Here are some careers that will place you at the forefront of the green revolution:

Renewable energy generation and efficiency

When considering green industry, the first thing that may come to mind is the generation of renewable energy.

Renewable energy includes “old” and “new” sources. Green careers in the energy generation and efficiency fields are numerous and include a seemingly endless list of job titles.

Three of the most noteworthy are:

Solar energy systems engineer

Solar engineers design and develop systems to harness the energy of the sun to generate electricity and heat for buildings.

Solar engineers are employed mainly in the private sector, where job growth is expected to be strong into the future.

Solar panel technician

These technicians are involved in every aspect of the installation and maintenance of solar energy systems.

Jobs in the field often require minimal levels of tertiary education and most experience is generated on the job. Job growth expectations are excellent.

Wind energy engineer

Wind energy engineers design, develop and install wind turbines and wind farm collector systems.

Entry into the profession typically requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering.

Job prospects for wind engineers are good and growing.

Environmental protection and agriculture

Going green may seem obvious when talking about agriculture, but issues regarding sustainability are just as pressing in this field as they are anywhere else. Environmental-protection careers involve environmental remediation, climate change adaptation and the protection of air quality.

Green agriculture jobs can be found throughout the farming and food-production industries, as well as in soil conservation, education and research.

Top job opportunities include:

Farm manager

These managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock and dairy products. Almost all farm-management jobs are found in the private sector, often with large food-production conglomerates.

Farm managers may also work their own land and develop their own agricultural products.

Agricultural inspector

These inspectors work for national and local government to inspect agricultural commodities, equipment, facilities and other locations to ensure compliance with health laws and regulations.

Job projections are steady into the next decade.

Green construction and manufacturing

One of the most exciting and fastest-growing green career fields is green construction and manufacturing.

Huge public interest is fuelling this growth, as more consumers realise the value of green construction products and their lower impact on the environment.

Green jobs can be found throughout the larger home and commercial building industries, and with private manufacturing companies large and small.

Here are some of the top job prospects in green construction and manufacturing:

Construction carpenter

Carpenters are the ultimate builders.

They construct and repair buildings, roads, bridges and other structures.

Job growth prospects for carpenters are expected to be strong in the coming decade, due in part to the green-construction revolution.


Chemists study the structure of substances on a molecular and atomic level.

They are employed in every facet of the construction and manufacturing fields to produce better and safer products and building materials.

Job growth for chemists should be steady, but slower than for the other occupations.

Recycling and waste reduction

Yes, recycling and waste reduction involve taking out the trash, but that’s just the beginning. Trash and waste must be disposed of properly, and this increasingly includes finding new ways to recycle and reuse waste in ways previously thought impossible.

A surprising example of this is the development and use of biosolids, which are derived from highly treated human waste. Occupations in this category concern solid waste and wastewater management, waste treatment and the processing of recyclable materials.

One of the most common jobs is:

Refuse-materials collector

Refuse-materials collectors are more commonly referred to as garbage collectors.

In the brave new world of recycling and waste management, however, the significance of the occupation has never been greater. Refuse-materials collectors work in both the private sector and for local governments.

Compiled by Yvonne Grimbeek

Sources: Department of environmental affairs,


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