The Brownfields Broadcast
20th Anniversary of the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program
Did you know that EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program has trained and placed more than 12,850 individuals in careers related to land remediation and environmental health and safety for over 20 years? Since the program first started in 1998, the EWDJT program has targeted the unemployed and underemployed residents of Brownfield communities and given them an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure employment in the environmental field.
Through EPA’s EWDJT Program, EPA awards grants are awarded to organizations, such as community colleges, nonprofit organizations, and local governments, to design a curriculum based on the local hiring needs and offer courses to residents that will make them competitive in the community’s job market. Graduates of an EWDJT-funded program are better positioned to secure sustained employment, graduates like Cristian and Christopher of the Fresno Area Workforce Investment Corporation’s Workforce Connection program in California.
Prior to Cristian Tello’s Workforce Connection experience, he was working part time at a car wash earning minimum wage, facing many financial challenges, and was seeking a new career. Cristian enrolled at Workforce Connection for Solar Installation Training at GRID Alternatives and it changed his life.
Through their EPA grant, Workforce Connection helps students like Cristian learn the fundamentals of solar installation. He completed a six-week training course at the nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives, which is an affordable solar power company providing services to low-income communities. Cristian also learned about the cleanup and restoration of contaminated sites. After receiving certifications in Solar Installation and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), Cristian realized how much more marketable for employment he had become. Just two weeks after graduating from the program, Cristian was employed full-time as a Solar Corps Construction Fellow earning $15.00 per hour. He is excited about building a career within this field and moving up within his new company.
After a five-year career as a roofer, Christopher White found himself unemployed and down on his luck. Christopher applied to many roofing companies, never receiving a response. He resorted to working side jobs to stay afloat during his eight months of unemployment, still struggling financially, living day-to-day not knowing where his next meal would come from. With the support of his brother, he decided to change his career and enrolled at Workforce Connection, where he was awarded a scholarship to attend a six-week EPA funded Solar Installation Training course at GRID Alternatives.
Christopher successfully completed his training and was hired at Lifestyle Solar as a full time Solar Installation Technician and earning $13.00 per hour with pay raise incentives. Christopher expressed, “GRID Alternatives provided me with great training, especially the hands-on training on top of roofs. Just recently, two roofing companies are interested in hiring me because of my HAZWOPER 40 Certification. If it wasn’t for Workforce Connection I would still be doing side jobs. Thank you to Workforce and GRID!”
These testimonies and countless others illustrate the twenty years of success of the program and why it is more relevant and needed than ever. The demand for qualified environmental technicians continues to grow across the country. Through its invaluable partnerships, graduate placement efforts, and flexible curricula, the EWDJT Program will continue to change lives and meet the important local environmental and economic needs of communities for many more years to come.