The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the selection of 26 organizations to receive a total of $5.1 million in grants for environmental job training programs across the country.
Funded through the agency’s successful Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program, these grants help to create a skilled workforce in communities where EPA brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.
EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez announced a $200,000 grant for the PathStone Corporation targeting the rural communities of the municipalities of Camuy, Hatillo, Quebradillas, Arecibo, Barceloneta and Manatí in Puerto Rico.
PathStone was awarded funds by EPA in 2015 and 2017, which brings EPA’s investment in the organization’s environmental training programs to a total of $600,000.
“EPA’s Job Training Program has helped to transform communities that need it the most. By investing in a local workforce to conduct environmental cleanup activities, we can help revitalize traditionally low-income neighborhoods,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
“Seventy five percent of those trained under our program have gone on to find full time jobs with good wages. I am proud to announce that EPA is building on these successes by providing additional grants to help lift communities out of poverty, employ returning veterans, and build a skilled environmental workforce for the future,” he said.
“EPA is pleased to work with PathStone once again to help residents in environmental justice communities obtain local jobs created by the assessment, cleanup, and management of solid and hazardous waste sites and facilities,” said Lopez. “We hope the job training graduates will have opportunities to use their new skills to revitalize properties in their own neighborhoods.”
PathStone is marking its 50th anniversary as an organization building family and individual self-sufficiency by strengthening farmworker, rural and urban communities through its social justice programs and advocacy.
PathStone’s goal with the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant is to foster local economic growth and leverage jobs in rural municipalities within Puerto Rico while promoting the reuse of remediated properties to improve quality of life for all community residents.
The organization’s training program will include instruction in hazardous waste operations and emergency response, automated external defibrillator and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, forklift driver, Occupational Safety Health Administration, asbestos and lead abatement. PathStone aims to instruct 60 students and place at least 41 graduates in full-time environmental jobs.
Carmen Guerrero-Pérez, director of EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, was joined by Jeffrey Lewis, vice president of direct services, Luayda Ortíz, senior director of PathStone Programs, Brenda Soto, director of quality control, and Mileydi Soto, regional administrator at the EPA Region 2 Caribbean Office, to discuss PathStone’s environmental training program, upcoming projects and community impacts.
Of the programs selected for funding this year, 31% plan to serve residents of communities experiencing persistent poverty and nearly 70% plan to serve veterans. All 26 selected programs plan to serve communities with census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones – an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.
Since this program began in 1998, more than 288 grants have been awarded. More than 18,000 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 13,679 individuals have been placed in full-time employment earning an average starting wage of over $14 an hour.
Rather than filling local jobs with contractors from distant cities, EPA created its environmental job training program to offer residents of communities historically affected by environmental pollution, economic disinvestment, and brownfields an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities.