The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grants allow nonprofit and other organizations to recruit, train, and place predominantly low-income, minority, unemployed, and under-employed people living in areas affected by solid and hazardous waste. Residents learn the skills needed to secure full-time, sustainable employment in the environmental field, including assessment and cleanup. This allows local community residents to share in the economic benefits associated with Brownfields assessment and redevelopment.
Many of the country’s environmental training programs targeted at disadvantaged community residents received their primary start-up funding from the EPA. As of July 2016, the EPA has awarded 273 job training grants exceeding $57 million since the program began in 1998. More than 10,100 participants have secured employment in the environmental field with an average starting hourly wage of $14.18. Every year, EPA awards EWDJT grants of up to $200,000 over three years.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), as one of the country’s larger cabinet level departments, has extensive funding and many agencies associated with employing, upgrading, and protecting the nation’s workforce. A few of the agencies and programs associated with workforce development and training are listed below.
- Employment and Training Administration (ETA)—Includes CareerOneStop
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA)
- Veterans employment and training service (VETS)
- Youth programs
- People with disabilities programs
- Job Corps
- Dislocated worker programs
To understand how these programs and funding streams operate, one must appreciate the massive size of the DOL. While many DOL programs are administered nationally, in most cases employment and workforce development assistance is provided to states to administer. Accordingly, much of the responsibility for workforce development and training goes to local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) or more recently Workforce Development Boards. (Refer to the State and Local Government section.) WIBs then determine how resources will be directed on a local level. For this reason, WIBs across the country can vary greatly in the programs and type of assistance they provide. It is important to learn what services and programs the local WIB provides and how supportive they will be in leveraging EWDJT activities.
Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) were created in 1998 when workforce development was reformed under the Workforce Investment Act. Long overdue, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014. This legislation, serving as a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, was created to provide state and local areas the flexibility to collaborate across systems in an effort to better address the employment and skill needs of current employees, jobseekers, and employers by:
- Prescribing a stronger alignment of the workforce, education, and economic development systems.
- Improving the structure and delivery in the system to assist America’s workers in achieving a family-sustaining wage while providing America’s employers with the skilled workers they need to compete on a global level.
WIOA basically updated the role of WIBs under the old legislation, using the same statewide and local systems, which:
- Increases the employment, retention, and earnings of participants; and
- Increases the attainment of recognized credentials by participants.
The results of the new legislation will:
- Improve the quality of the workforce.
- Reduce welfare dependency.
- Increase economic self-sufficiency.
- Meet the skill requirements of employers.
Enhance the productivity and competiveness of the nation.
CareerOneStop Centers are designed to provide a full range of assistance to jobseekers under one roof. CareerOneStop Centers offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and similar employment-related services. The CareerOneStop Center System is coordinated by one of the DOL’s larger workforce programs, the Employment and Training Administration (ETA). ETA’s website provides a clickable map of CareerOneStop Centers for each state along with their websites and a list of state, regional, and local Center contacts. ETA also has a toll-free help line at (877) US-2JOBS. Customers can visit a Center in person or connect to the Center’s website for more information.
CareerOneStop Centers are important to EWDJT programs in that they can recruit, screen, and test prospective applicants. However, it is important that EWDJT program staff use CareerOneStop Center assistance only as a supplement to their internal screening and testing process. Most EWDJT programs have several paths for entry into the environmental training program, one of which is the CareerOneStop Centers.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) provides support for environmental workers through the Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) and the Brownfields Minority Worker Training Program (BMWTP). The primary aim of the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) is to prevent work-related harm by assisting in the training of workers to protect themselves and their communities from exposure to hazardous materials. As part of this prevention strategy, the WTP funds two programs that address critical workforce development issues directly affecting disadvantaged worker populations: the ECWTP and the BMWTP.
For additional information, the National Clearinghouse‘s services include disseminating technical information related to safety and health training development, organizing and documenting NIEHS WTP meetings and workshops, and analyzing research products to enhance and support ongoing and new initiatives.
Some of the EWDJT grantees have received funding from both the EPA and NIEHS. For example, OAI, Inc. is funded by the EPA and NIEHS. The EPA and NIEHS worker training programs are fundamentally different in that the EPA program focuses on remediation and the NIEHS program focuses on worker health and safety. They are similar in that all EPA remediation training stresses the importance of health and safety as part of the remediation process.
EPA and NIEHS grants have different application criteria, funding levels, and grant periods. EPA’s grant period is three years, and NIEHS’ grant period is five years. EPA grant competitions are held every year, and NIEHS grant competitions are held every five years and are larger in scope and more complex. It is important to note that these two programs provide similar training, but they cannot overlap in scope or target communities.
AmeriCorps: Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is a network of national service programs that engages more than 50,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. Created in 1993, AmeriCorps is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
AmeriCorps has three programs, one of which is AmeriCorps VISTA. VISTA members serve full-time for a year in nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and faith-based groups throughout the country.
AmeriCorps also has a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) that is part of Senior Corps, a network of national service programs that provides older Americans the opportunity to apply their life experience to meeting community needs. RSVP volunteers serve in a diverse range of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and faith-based groups. While AmeriCorps and Senior Corps may have costs associated with the program, they can be an excellent source of experienced professionals.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) NOFA Forecast (Notice of Funding Availability) lists competitive grant opportunities. When funding is available, HUD will issue a NOFA, which is available on Grants.gov and HUD’s NOFA Forecast website. Each NOFA provides guidance on how to apply for funding. Opportunities for HUD funding is primarily in the areas of lead and asbestos remediation and training. HUD additionally provides assistance through block grants to states and communities. It is important to become familiar with state and local housing authorities especially for EWDJT programs that focus on lead and/or asbestos remediation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and other federal agencies, similar to DOL, operate programs that may be useful to EWDJT programs. They occasionally award individual grants, but most funds are administered through larger programs that provide a multitude of services to disabled and general veteran populations. EWDJT programs recruit disabled and former veterans from these programs.