Environmental Works, Inc. (EWI) recently helped Kansas City-based nonprofit El Centro secure a $200,000 Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The three-year EPA grant will provide environmental training and employment opportunities for up to 72 individuals in Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.
Wyandotte County’s poverty rate of 23.9% is substantially higher than that of any other county in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitian Area. By comparison, the overall poverty rate in the state of Kansas is 12.9%.
Individuals that complete the program, hosted by El Centro, will receive five environmental training certifications: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP); Lead Abatement Worker; Asbestos Abatement Worker; and HAZWOPER 40.
All HAZWOPER training will be provided by EWI. In addition to HAZWOPER, EWI offers a number of compliance training services both online and on work sites, including Annual Stormwater Training, RCRA General Awareness Hazardous Waste Training, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Training (SPCC) and Universal Waste Management Training.
The certifications offered in the program were chosen by El Centro based on the feedback and advice of local employers, including EWI.
“This grant would not have happened without the support of area employers like (EWI Due Diligence Program Manager) Nick Godfrey. He helped us understand what (environmental) jobs look like and what sort of training employees need to be successful,” said Cindy Singer, Grant Writer for El Centro. “Nick has given lots of advice and talked about what we need to do to get these folks hired. We really appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule to provide help.”
For his part, Godfrey hopes that the benefits of the EPA grant come full circle and graduates of El Centro’s program are hired as trained technicians at EWI.
El Centro, which serves more than 12,000 individuals in Kansas City and Olathe, Kansas, and aims to strengthen communities and improve the “lives of Latinos and others through education, social and economic opportunities,” was one of 26 organizations across the country to receive an EPA grant for environmental job training.
According to the EPA, the “grants help create skilled workforce in communities where EPA Brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place” and “offer residents of communities historically affected by environmental pollution the opportunity to gain skills needed to secure local environmental work in the community.”
Brownfields are pieces of property – usually former industrial or commercial sites – where future use is complicated by environmental compliance issues.
Kansas City, Kansas, county seat of Wyandotte County, sits on the west bank of the Missouri River opposite downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and is highly industrialized.
“The area we are targeting is one of the poorest in the (Midwest) – with the highest unemployment rate, lowest education rate and lowest household income in the Kansas City metro,” said Singer. “The population of this area is more subject to health problems related to environmental issues.”
Singer said El Centro expects the training program to “put a dent in poverty in the community” by providing individuals with jobs with “livable wages.”
“Positions that are $16 and higher an hour, starting, with opportunities for overtime and job growth,” she said. “The bottom line is we hope to have 72 individuals trained with amazing skill sets.”
The program’s first training session is scheduled for mid-April at El Centro’s Richard A. Ruiz Administrative and Services Building (650 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66101).
Those with questions about or interest in El Centro’s training program are asked to contact the nonprofit at 913-677-0100.
Anyone with questions about the grant can email Cindy Singer, Grant Writer for El Centro, at Cindysinger1@gmail.com.