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Transforming Lives and Land in Chicago through EPA’s Brownfields Job Training Program

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Joshua Singer (


May 16, 2017

Transforming Lives and Land in Chicago through EPA’s Brownfields Job Training Program

CHICAGO – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a $200,000 brownfields grant to OAI, Inc. in Chicago for a program to train unemployed and underemployed local residents for green jobs that reduce environmental contamination and improve communities. This grant is one of 14 nationwide announced today which are funded through the Agency’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program. Today’s 14 grants total approximately $2.7 million. 

“Brownfields job training programs are a win-win for communities impacted by hazardous waste sites,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These job training programs can touch and change lives by teaching valuable and marketable skills that also help protect our environment.”

OAI will use its grant to train 45 students and place at least 40 graduates in environmental jobs. Student will receive 1,080 hours of instruction in hazardous waste operations, emergency response and other environmental job skills. Participants who complete the training program will earn one state and three federal certifications.

OAI focuses on ex-offenders, minorities, and veterans living on the west and south sides of Chicago. Key partners include Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District Forest Preserves of Cook County, City of Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management, Cook County Department of Environmental Control, Forest Preserves of Cook County, WRD Environmental, Signature Staffing Resources, Republic Services, Applied Ecological Services, Literacy Chicago, Youth Guidance, North Lawndale Employment Network and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

“OAI is ecstatic to receive EPA’s 2017 Environmental Workforce Development Job Training grant to continue our partnership with Greencorps Chicago and WRD Environmental to improve the quality of life of Chicagoans through a comprehensive workforce program,” said Mollie Dowling, Executive Director, OAI, Inc. “Greencorps trainees receive classroom and hands-on job training in a variety of environmental careers, while maintaining and restoring natural and public spaces throughout Chicago. Providing technical training and career opportunities will create a more engaged, skilled workforce and generate economic development opportunities for our region.”

For more than two decades, EPA’s EWDJT program has helped put people to work by building a skilled workforce across the country. EPA awards competitive grants to nonprofit organizations and other entities to recruit, train and place unemployed and underemployed individuals. The training programs also serves dislocated workers who have lost their jobs as a result of manufacturing plant closures, minorities, tribal members, transitioning veterans, ex-offenders and other individuals who may have faced barriers to employment. 

Since EWDJT grant program began in 1998, more than 270 grants exceeding $57 million have been awarded. More than 16,000 people have completed training and nearly 12,000—or 73 percent--have been placed in full-time jobs earning an average starting wage of $14 an hour.

There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America.  Since the beginning of EPA’s Brownfields Program, investments have leveraged more than $22 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. This has resulted in approximately 117,525 jobs nationwide.

For more information on EWDJT grantees, including past EWDJT grantees, please visit:

For more information on EPA’s EWDJT program, please visit: