Introduction

Since 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized the importance of community participation when revitalizing abandoned, contaminated properties.

It made little sense to invest in infrastructure and economic development when surrounding communities continued to experience high levels of poverty, crime, and a lack of employment opportunities. To assist underserved community residents living in areas affected by contaminated property, EPA funded several pilot job training programs to demonstrate the feasibility of recruiting and training low-income, unemployed, and under-employed people living in areas affected by solid and hazardous waste.

Through this pilot program, participants acquired the skills and certifications they needed to secure full-time, sustainable employment in the environmental field. Graduates were, for the first time, able to participate in the economic benefits associated with the clean-up of their neighborhood.

The huge success of those initial pilot job training programs resulted in an expanded Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program. Annual competitions for EWDJT funds allow nonprofit and other organizations to establish environmental job training programs in their communities. Since the program’s inception, thousands of graduates continue to be placed in environmental careers with training provided, in part, by EPA’s EWDJT program.

Due to the structure and limited funding of the Brownfields Initiative, local organizations must develop efficient, leveraged programs with dual objectives of maximizing participant placement and becoming a sustainable workforce development program. Effective partnering, leveraging, community and labor market assessments, curriculum development, student recruitment, participant retention, placement, and tracking are just a few of the many critical activities that program developers must address.

Through EPA cooperative agreements, HMTRI provides technical assistance to EWDJT grantees and prospective grantees to help them meet program objectives and achieve sustainability. This website provides information, best practices, and reference materials to assist in their efforts. Each topic in this “Start a Program” section guides readers through the critical components associated with successful and sustainable EWDJT programs.

Is the EWDJT program a good choice for your community?

The concept of putting unemployed and under-employed community residents to work cleaning up contaminated, abandoned property for productive use may appear simple. However, many of the details of EWDJT programs can be complicated. Below are some of the issues that should be considered before investing time and effort in developing a proposal for EPA’s EWDJT grant competition.

  • EPA funding is limited to recruitment, training, and placement of community residents in selected environmental disciplines.
  • Funding for student support and non-environmental training (e.g. life skills training) must be provided through leveraged resources and strong partnerships.
  • Job opportunities for program graduates must be demonstrated.
  • Support from local government, community organizations, and residents are essential for EWDJT success.
  • Organizers of the program need to become familiar with EWDJT federal guidelines, regulations, and reporting requirements.
  • The proposal process is detailed and requires adequate time for extensive data collection, and community and governmental outreach.

When considering submitting an application for EPA funding, it would be wise to review the most current EWDJT Request for Proposals (RFP). The guidelines and program requirements do not change dramatically from year-to-year. The most current RFP is available on this Brownfields Toolbox website or from EPA’s website. Also available on EPA’s website are listings of current and past grantees. Annually, EPA typically announces a new round of funding and issues an RFP in the late fall.