Environmental Factor – September 2022: At Brownfields conference, recipients of worker training discuss Justice40
The National Brownfields Training Conference in Oklahoma City was an opportunity for the NIEHS Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) to introduce its grantees, review progress, and discuss next steps from the White House. Justice40 initiative, 17 August. (See the first box for more on brownfields.)
Justice40 guides federal agencies to deliver 40% of overall benefits from investments in climate change, clean energy, affordable housing, clean water, workforce development, and cleanup to disadvantaged communities.
ECWTP is a unique training program within the NIEHS Worker Training Program. The Brownfields 2022 meeting took place two months after ECWTP was selected to participate in Justice40. The ECWTP funding came with $4.25 million in support, focused on Justice40’s core training objectives.
“I am delighted that we are able to provide grantees with new funding,” said Sharon Beard, NIEHS Worker Training Program Director. “They can expand recruitment and training and also attract new partners.”
During the conference, ECWTP received the “Audience Award” for a poster presentation titled “A Justice40 Workforce Development and Pilot Model for Addressing Environmental Justice and Climate Change”.
“ECWTP has been instrumental in training workers on how best to protect themselves, their families and their communities, not only in their work, but also during and after climate-related disasters and health emergencies. “, reads the poster, highlighting how the program will continue its success in the Justice40 initiative.
Race and Pollution
Representatives of ECWTP grantee organizations were on hand to talk about their work, the potential benefits of Justice40 and what the new financial support would mean.
Beverly Wright, Ph.D., Executive Director of Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), noted that Justice40 takes a whole-of-government approach to addressing pollution and environmental injustice.
“Most of our problems cannot be solved by one agency alone,” she told attendees.
Robert Bullard, Ph.D., is the director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University. He and Wright are both members of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. They also co-lead the Consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universitieslong-time beneficiary of ECWTP.
Bullard discussed the need to improve the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Toola geospatial mapping tool created by the Environmental Quality Council to identify areas of need and where the benefits of Justice40 can best be directed.
“The tool was rolled out in beta form regardless of race,” he said. “The Bullard Center and Deep South are working on an additional tool that will overlay racing.”
New expansion opportunities
David Casavant is the founder of the Sustainable Workplace Alliance (SWA), a recent ECWTP grantee which provides training and placement in environmental health and safety careers. Justice40 will allow SWA to offer new programs in Puerto Rico.
New services were also on the agenda for Montgomery Proffit, director of ECWTP at Opportunity, Advancement, and Innovation in Workforce Development (OAI), who works with employers primarily in the Midwest. “The Justice40 initiative helps expand our training and services in St. Louis,” Proffit said.
Steve Surtees, Director of ECWTP at Construction Research and Training Center (CPWR), works closely with building trades unions. “Our goal is to place more graduates of our programs in a registered apprenticeship with one of the local building unions,” he said.
Train workers, help communities
Monica Villalba is a community health worker training program facilitator at Hit the road to New York, which offers vocational training to most immigrants. Justice40, she said, will enroll more students and help raise the standard of living in the community.
Yodit Semu, ECWTP coordinator for the Western Region Universities Consortium (WRUC), also spoke about the benefits of justice40. “It will fund additional mentoring and career counseling, basic math, basic reading, first aid and CPR training for women in non-traditional jobs. [WINTER] in Los Angeles,” she said.
WRUC also offers training programs in Alaska that allow participants from remote communities to travel to Anchorage to learn trades on a schedule that does not disrupt their traditional lifestyles.
“Subsistence activities are seasonal,” Semu said. “We try to make it possible [participants] travel for training and return to their communities to support their families.
(John Yewell is contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)