Transportation is a support service that is often overlooked and can become a major issue concerning student retention, placement, and sustained employability. In rural communities, reservations, and urbanized communities with underdeveloped transportation infrastructure, Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) programs may need to include transportation (between home and training, and between home and work) as a condition of acceptance. An alternative is to provide transportation services during training with the understanding that post-graduation transportation will become a responsibility of the participant. In extreme cases such as programs located in Alaska, students may be transported, trained, and housed at a central location as student residents.
Urban communities with good transportation service allows for more flexibility. Students can commute to training and secure sustainable jobs within the community’s transportation network. EWDJT programs have leveraged transportation support in a number of ways. In rural areas, auto dealerships have provided discounts to EWDJT graduates. In urban communities, it is not uncommon for students to receive free or discounted public transportation passes to and from class.
Financial literacy is becoming an essential part of an overall life skills education. It has been identified as being most important to underserved populations in distressed communities. Having secured employment, employees sometimes find themselves hopelessly in debt, unable to secure housing and provide for emergencies as they arise.
The importance of financial literacy training has been recognized and provides numerous resources and training opportunities from federal and nonprofit organizations as well as in-kind volunteer training opportunities with local banks. Local banks can become excellent leveraged partners providing instructors, guest speakers, and mentors for Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) participants.
An excellent starting point for financial literacy curricula, lesson plans, tip sheets, guidance, and helpful tools for teaching financial capability is the Financial Literacy & Education Commission’s About MyMoney website. The U.S. Federal Reserve has also addressed financial literacy training and provides instructions and awareness materials.
Funding for child care services is usually provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC) through block grants to each state. The best place to start regarding child care assistance is the state or county Department of Human Services, Child Care Services, or Family Services.
If a student is on public assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a state and federal program that provides funds for support services and family assistance.
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration provides assistance to qualified dislocated workers. Similar programs include the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) formerly called the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) which supports state Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs).
Funding to Tribal/Native Americans from the Department of Labor may also be available.
The Institute for Urban and Minority Education is a website that addresses some of the issues discussed in this chapter.
Each support service represents an expenditure of staff and funds, which is not an eligible expense under current EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) funding guidelines. Review each program grant and contribution carefully, determining eligible and ineligible expenditures.
By leveraging the services of multiple organizations, individuals can be successful in resolving issues that would otherwise constrain them from entering an environmental career. The key to bridging services is good communication, information exchange, and resource sharing. Forming partnerships is addressed further in the chapter Building Partnerships.
When student support services are not available, the only option is to recruit students who do not require supplemental services. Eliminating or minimizing student support services dramatically reduces the complexity and cost of an EWDJT program. In such cases, make it clear prior to and during recruitment of students what the EWDJT program provides and what it does not provide. Entrants who need support services must search outside the program. As harsh as this approach appears, EWDJT programs with partners that cannot provide essential student support must face the reality of having a severely limited EWDJT program.
Students may work through the issues previously discussed, but may have personal issues that prevent them from being successful. Personal issues can disrupt the entire Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) process of training, retention, and placement. Several personal issues may need to be addressed to help students be successful in their training and employment.
Attainment of adult high school diploma or GED (high school equivalency)
Learning and physical disabilities
Access to computers and learning resources
Prior convictions and legal issues
Drug and/or alcohol abuse
Child and dependent care
Student living assistance (i.e., paying rent or finding housing)
Transportation to and from training
Driver’s license suspension and outstanding tickets or warrants
Insurance and medical services
EWDJT programs have handled support services in a variety of ways. Every student is likely to require a different level of support. Some students are secure and independent, requiring little assistance. Others have numerous issues, responsibilities, and obligations that must be addressed if training and sustained employment is to be successful.
EWDJT programs need to allocate resources for personal issues such as counseling and advocacy. Failure to be sensitive to student needs can result in low program completion and employment rates. Working with local courts, expungement, and probation programs can be important factors in retaining capable students who have not yet matured, made mistakes in their past, or were associated with the wrong peer group. Anger management, working in groups, proper presentation, and attitude adjustment can greatly influence student retention, placement, and post-graduate success. Use of drugs can be a contentious issue, especially in communities where marijuana is legal. Employers often require drug-free employees including marijuana—legal or illegal. It must be made clear to applicants during the recruitment process that they may be tested at any time for drug use.
Life skills education alone will not properly prepare a student for success in an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program. Curriculum associated with these programs requires basic math and science skills. Poor math, English, and verbal skills can become major impediments for training and environmental employment. Remedial education is sometimes necessary before training can begin.
Rather than making assumptions about reading, math, and writing abilities, student assessments (discussed in Recruitment and Assessment) should be included as part of the screening process to provide a clear characterization of each individual’s knowledge and experience. Even the best students may have forgotten skills necessary as a foundation for environmental training that they previously had mastered. The challenges for EWDJT program staff are to minimize educational disparities and bring each student to a level sufficient to successfully complete environmental training and obtain employment.
Remedial education may occur in several ways. EWDJT programs that are part of larger training organizations may incorporate remedial training courses as part of an overall comprehensive program. Department of Labor (DOL) programs may develop an individual learning plan for each person that includes remedial education. When remedial education is needed but is not available, it may be required to incorporate it into each environmental course.
As with other components of EWDJT programs, remedial education demonstrates the importance of coordination and partnership with organizations that offer services necessary for students to be successful.
To improve adult literacy, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education has provided funding for programs to teach basic skills that can result in new employment. Funds included in this program also provide for transportation and child care services.
Additional information concerning reading and communication skills may be found at the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication Skills. This site is a clearinghouse that addresses issues related to communication and listening skills.
Literacy issues can be found at the National Clearinghouse on Literacy Education. This site provides information on educational materials available to teach English to out-of-school youth.
Many of us take for granted skills and abilities that assist us in completing everyday tasks. Life skills include developing and keeping regular routines; being reliable and on time; appearance; and accepting personal, family, and academic responsibilities. Goal setting, decision-making, time management, listening skills, and problem-solving are additional examples of life skills that some students may not have had an opportunity to develop. These life skills are a necessary prerequisite for Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program candidates who must meet the challenges of the rigorous training. They are also necessary for a student to gain and hold employment after graduation.
Funding for life skills training is not supported by EPA’s EWDJT program, but is often available from a number of other sources. Programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), community colleges, and faith-based and community organizations may provide assistance for students entering an environmental job training program.
Life skills training supported by the federal government is usually part of a larger comprehensive program with block grants to states who, in turn, establish social service agencies and Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). States may develop statewide programs passing resources down to counties and communities to support local programs. Federal grants may be matched or supplemented with local funds. Each locality is different.
It is important to search local, county, and state labor and social services programs for available assistance with life skills training in addition to other student support. Note that local programs require local partnerships and that every community operates differently. Websites are useful in learning how national programs work and in identifying and providing contact information for local programs.
Support services include all of the activities and assistance students need to supplement their environmental training while on the path to meaningful environmental employment.
A great deal of material is available on support services. Entire websites are devoted to some of the support services discussed in this chapter. Because of the scope of this topic, this chapter will treat the subject as it relates to environmental training. The purpose is to raise issues that will create an awareness of supplemental support services, and to point those interested in developing an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program in the right direction.
Preliminary planning for an EWDJT program often focuses on training designed to provide skills, knowledge, and certifications necessary for jobs created by Brownfields economic development. The core curriculum concentrates on environmental assessment, remediation, and safety training. As program planning proceeds, consideration needs to be given to life skills and student support services. Life skills, student support, and addressing legal and personal issues can be as important to student success as technical skills. Often, it is more important. Addressing legal and personal issues and offering support services can be primary factors that influence student retention. Offering life skills training can be a pathway or a deterrent to student placement and employment success.
While the EPA EWDJT program supports job placement activities, it does not provide for life skills training, remedial training, and student support. In simple terms, activities associated directly with student recruitment, environmental training, placement, and tracking are allowable expenses. This funding gap becomes a wake-up call for the importance of leveraged partners. Fortunately there are many potential partners that provide these services.
There are several issues that can be addressed under support services.
Life skills education
Remedial education and literacy issues
Child and dependent care
Personal and legal issues