Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Biofuels [Third Installment]

The biofuels industry employs a wide range of workers in a variety of occupations. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series profiles construction occupations in the biofuels industry.

Construction Occupations

Construction workers build the processing plants where biofuels are made. Much of the future construction needs from the biofuels industry will be driven by cellulosic technology, using nonfood biomass to create biofuels. The advances in processing additional feedstocks have created demand for processing plants that can convert multiple crops into fuel.

Construction workers are also needed to convert existing infrastructure at gas stations so that they can support higher blends of fuel. There may also be career opportunities in the design and construction of feedstock pre-processing facilities to condense biomass feedstocks before transportation to fuel production plants.

Job Duties

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion. They oversee new construction of biofuel and feedstock processing plants as well as the retrofitting of existing plants. Construction managers work with various specialists, such as architects and engineers, to get the plant built on time and within a budget.

Construction laborers perform tasks that require physical labor on construction sites, many of which are physically demanding. They build new biofuel plants and convert existing plants so that they can also produce fuel using cellulosic feedstocks. And as more ethanol blend fuels are made available, these workers will build new tanks to hold them or install blender pumps to existing tanks.

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used in construction. They operate various types of equipment, such as bulldozers, forklifts, and cranes. They use these machines to build processing plants and to install new fuel tanks at gas stations.


Most construction managers have a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering. However, a combination of work experience and an associate's degree may meet the qualifications of some employers. Managers must have time-management skills and decision-making skills to ensure that each task involved in a project is assigned to the appropriate party and that each task is completed on time.

Most employers hiring construction laborers do not have a formal education requirement. The majority of laborers learn their skills through on-the-job-training, either informally or through an apprenticeship program. Construction workers must have strength and stamina for lifting heavy objects and performing other strenuous tasks throughout the day.

Construction equipment operators may learn the skills needed for their job through on-the-job training, an apprenticeship, or at a trade school. A high school diploma and a commercial driver's license may be required. They should have good eye-hand-foot coordination because they control powerful machinery.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently does not have wage data specific to the biofuels industry. However, BLS does have wage data for the basic chemical manufacturing industry group; the following table shows wages for selected construction occupations in that industry group for May 2011. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Construction managers $101,970
Construction laborers $29,730
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators $33,440

For more detailed information on construction occupations in the biofuels industry, click the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next week’s biofuels industry installment: Agriculture Occupations

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