Giving People and Land a Second Chance

Revitalizing brownfields returns idle, dilapidated and often contaminated properties to productive use. This boosts the local economy, improves property values and aesthetics and enhances public health, safety and quality of life. To do this, our competitive Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grants provide non-profit organizations and governmental entities funding to recruit, train and place unemployed residents. Trainees are recruited from solid and hazardous waste-impacted communities for entry-level careers in the environmental field.

These training programs provide hope for many unemployed and under-employed individuals striving to make a livable wage and to enter the growing environmental field, including dislocated workers ex-offenders, and veterans. Graduates of the program gain comprehensive training in areas such as wastewater treatment, stormwater management, hazardous waste remediation, leaking underground storage tank removal, emergency response, solar installation, and mine-scarred land remediation.

Many graduates have made important contributions to their communities through response and cleanup associated with the World Trade Centers following 9-11, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the BP Oil Spill.
The program is unique in that grantees partner with local employers to determine the exact skills and certifications required to fill the hiring needs in their community. Grantees design their own environmental training curricula based on local labor market assessments and employer surveying – increasing the likelihood their graduates will be hired. These public-private partnerships are critical to ensure graduates are placed in full-time employment.

In New Orleans, grantees focus their training on mold remediation, hazardous waste cleanup, stormwater management, and emergency response as a result of the close proximity of petrochemical facilities and the threat of natural disasters, such as hurricanes. In Alaska, grantees focus training on proper solid waste management in Native Alaskan Villages, recycling, and leaking aboveground storage tank prevention and cleanup. Some grantees specialize in serving specific populations. The Fortune Society in New York focuses on serving ex-offenders and Florida State College at Jacksonville is known for serving unemployed veterans.

To date, EPA has funded 239 job training grants totaling more than $50 million. More than 12,800 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 9,100 have secured employment in the environmental field with an average hourly starting wage of $14.00. This equates to an excellent cumulative job placement rate of 71 percent.

I am proud of the visible impacts these grants have had in communities across the United States and that local residents historically affected by economic disparities have an opportunity to participate in the cleanup of their communities.

Mathy Stanislaus is the Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), leading the Agency’s land cleanup, solid waste and emergency response programs. Mr. Stanislaus is a chemical engineer and environmental lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the environmental field in the private and public sectors. He received his law degree from Chicago Kent Law School and Chemical Engineering Degree from City College of New York.