workforce development

Building Community Resiliency by Training the Next Generation

by Patrick A. Barnes

In 2011, the first of the baby boomers reached retirement age.  And for the foreseeable future, boomers will be retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day, nearly a quarter million a month.

In an effort to help compensate for its retiring workforce, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) launched several initiatives to reach individuals within communities of need to find future water/wastewater plant operators. One such initiative resulted in a very unique and timely partnership with Limitless Vistas, Inc. (LVI), supported by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

At LVI, our mission is to serve at-risk, underserved, and under-employed young adults, ages 18 to 29 years.  Through our program, participants obtain certifications, knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience in the environmental industry.  Near the end of their training, LVI participants serve in internships with S&WB and local environmental and engineering firms. These internships help the students learn more about potential careers within the environmental industry. It also gives potential employers a chance to work with non-traditional future employees and discover their talents and enthusiasm before offering them a job.

Granville Guillory has used this opportunity to truly excel.

Granville was 20 when he came to LVI after several personal hardships and dropping out of college. His aunt heard about the LVI program and suggested he give it a try.  During his interview, Granville indicated he wanted to work for S&WB and follow in his uncle’s footsteps.  According to Granville, his uncle had worked at the S&WB for most of his life and he was “set.” Granville was looking for the same type of stability in his life.

Granville, along with several other students, were there on June 21, 2012, when EPA announced that LVI was among the recipients of an EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant. There, Granville discussed his desire to work for the S&WB. His sincerity and personal enthusiasm earned him a private tour of the facility after the press conference.

Later that year, Granville and seven other LVI members participated in an internship at the local facility, where he continued to impress the staff with his work ethic, curiosity, and natural intuition for the work. And his hard work paid off! After passing the Wastewater Operators State Board Exam, Granville and another student were asked to join Veolia North America (the plant operator) as full-time employees.

Now at age 23, Granville is excelling as a State of Louisiana Class III Wastewater Plant Operator and, as he puts it, “if things go wrong, it is my responsibility to help make them right before any serious damage to the furnace or an emission violation occurs.” Because of his performance and interest in furnace operations, he was asked if he would be willing to travel overseas to broaden his skills. Later this year, Granville will be traveling to Tokyo for six months to learn about a new and more efficient furnace that Veolia is planning to incorporate in its U.S. operations.

Granville also has taken on an active role in mentoring new LVI participants and interns. With his enthusiasm, they are able to see the bigger picture through discussions with him and strive harder to achieve their goals — just like Granville did.

I firmly believe that there cannot be true environmental justice without economic justice, and this tremendous need represents a unique opportunity for impacted residents to obtain meaningful jobs, thus putting them on a path to economic equality and ultimately, helping to build the socio-economic strength necessary for communities like Granville’s more resilient for the future.  It truly takes a unique team of partners working together across governments and with local communities and industry, to connect the dots for environmental workforce development and job training programs to succeed!

About the author: Patrick A. Barnes, President of BFA Environmental is a professional geologist and founder of LVI.  Patrick recently was honoured as a White House Champion of Change Community Resiliency Leader.  Patrick first envisioned LVI in 1997 after years of performing environmental engineering services to poor communities working as an EPA Technical Assistant Grant (TAG) advisor and after working on several Brownfields redevelopment projects in the Southeast.  

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Career Advice from Steven

steven

Have you ever had on the job training?  I once was part of a 9 month on the job training program and never really thought about the materials that were being used.  It is people like Steven Dean who make this training possible.  I sat down with Steven the other day to learn more about his job at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Instructional Systems Specialist.  Essentially I am a curriculum developer.  I take content and apply instructional design elements. 

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

I was an Instructional Systems Specialist in Corporate America and for the Department of Defense before coming to EPA.

What is a typical day like for you?

Really varies.  A typical day starts by looking at where we are at in various curriculums and making sure we have gathered all the necessary information to support the learning objectives that need to be developed.  We also have to make sure we have correct subject matter experts in place, along with the right resources, to develop objects to design accurate programs.

What is the best part of your job?

I love the people.  People here are engaged and go out of their way to help.  If they can’t find what you need, they will get you in touch with someone who can.  Everyone at EPA works together to ensure EPA’s mission is accomplished.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I did.  I grew up in West Virginia and my backyard was mountains and beautiful.  I would camp and hike on the weekends.  I would also see the effects of mountain top coal removal and was not a fan.  In addition, while in the military, working with machinery, I was conscientious and wanted to ensure that if spills happened proper clean up followed.   

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

I have my degree in Workforce Education Development and use all of the classes from my training.  Some of these classes include: labor linkages, skills management, adult learning and adult psychology.  I also use English and writing skills.  My education is exactly what I do.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

When you are in grade school and high school and think that math and science are not cool, you are wrong!  If you know math and science you can hold great power as an adult.  We need more S.T.E.M. training at the high school and college level, to ensure new knowledge.  Even if it is hard, stick with it!

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Green Jobs for Our Health and Our Economy

This post is cross posted from the  “Huffington Post”

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

With the economy on the minds of millions of Americans, President Obama continues to make job creation this administration’s top priority. Today the U.S Environmental Protection Agency is following through on that priority by supporting the creation of good, green jobs for Americans across the country.

The EPA is awarding more than $6.2 million in workforce development and job training grants to 21 communities nationwide. Organizations receiving grant support — ranging from a state environmental agency to community-based groups — will use it to train job-seekers, giving them the tools they need to manage, assess and clean up contaminated properties known as brownfields. In addition to providing marketable skills, part of the grant funding will help place those newly trained workers into available employment — creating a straight line between our investment and new jobs.

The environmental, health and economic benefits of brownfields cleanups are extensive and long-lasting. Brownfields sites are places like old gas stations, closed smelters and other industrial and commercial properties that have been left too contaminated to be safely redeveloped. The training programs supported by today’s grants will help graduates revitalize these sites with skills like solid waste management, underground storage tank removal, green construction and clean energy installation.

But this is about more than just creating jobs for one or two cleanup projects. The workers trained under these grants will be strengthening the conditions needed for healthy, sustainable job growth in their own communities. Rather than sitting idle and posing threats to the health of local residents, the revitalized sites can be safely transformed into parks or new economic developments. Since its inception, the brownfields program has sparked the transformation of once-abandoned and contaminated lands into business centers, recreational areas and other developments. That renewal sparks job creation, economic growth and healthier, stronger communities to raise a family and start a business.

The public and private partnerships fostered through the brownfields program have helped create more than 70,000 new jobs. And, as of June 1, 2011, the brownfields job training program alone has trained and placed almost 5,400 people in full-time, sustainable jobs.

Under President Obama’s leadership, we will continue to push for good, green jobs in communities across the nation. It makes perfect sense to seize the abundant opportunities to put people to work protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands where we build our communities. We can get the important economic benefits of new jobs, while we help make our communities better places to raise a family free from health risks, or to start a business knowing that problems in the environment aren’t going to turn away customers or make workers call in sick.

In other words, we can show that we don’t have to choose between breathing clean air and drinking clean water or creating good jobs. We can do them all at the same time.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.