By Douglas Moser
---- — A local worker retraining board received a $200,000 federal environmental grant to train dozens of people for and place other graduates in jobs in environmental services, officials announced Monday.
The Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board received the grant this week from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Workforce Development and Job Training program.
“The goal is this: We recognize the value of assisting people getting back to work in this economy,” said Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Workforce Investment Board. “The environment is an area where there will be opportunities for jobs and we want to help young people be ready for them.”
The program assists organizations in economically disadvantaged communities to provide environmental job training and equip trainees with environmental health and safety certifications, according to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ office. Graduates are provided with a wide range of skills and certifications that improve their ability to find both short-term work and full-time careers in the environmental field.
Rafael Abislaiman, director of the Workforce Investment Board, said the new program will begin next month and last about three years. The first two years will be training, done through the nonprofit Groundwork Lawrence, and the final year will be follow up.
The board will use the grant to train 45 students and place 31 graduates in environmental jobs, and will focus on unemployed and underemployed people in Lawrence and neighboring communities, Abislaiman said.
Training will be in building and site remediation, soil improvement and sustainability and some exposure to the rudiments of solar voltaic systems. Applicants will have to be either U.S. citizens or be legally authorized to work in the United States and have a roughly eighth-grade literacy level. Younger applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED.
Several local businesses – Polartec, Waste Management, TRC Solutions, Enpro, RM Technologies, Enviro Staffing Solutions, Resource Options, Inc., Servpro, SMS Services, LTS and Mainstream Global – will participate in the program as members of an advisory committee that would help match their hiring needs with the training curriculum. They also agreed to interview job candidates trained in the program, Abislaiman said.
“The significant return on this investment will have ongoing reverberations – with only $200,000, the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board will train and employ more than 75 individuals,” said Tsongas, who advocated before the EPA for the grant. “At the same time, they will be aiding the revitalization and protection of our communities. This is a big win for the local economy and environment.”
As of May 2013, more than 11,000 Americans have completed training through the support of the EPA’s workforce program, of which, over 8,000 have obtained employment in the environmental field, Tsongas’ office said.
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