University of South Florida


The first cohort of students in the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program

New EPA-funded program at USF helps Tampa residents secure careers in the environmental sector

The first cohort of participants to enroll in the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program has graduated with valuable training and certifications in workplace safety and hazardous waste cleanup. The program is a collaboration between the USF Center for Brownfields Research & Redevelopment and the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa. The five-week program, funded in part by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was available to unemployed local residents with the goal of revitalizing East Tampa neighborhoods through environmental and brownfield remediation. It was designed to meet employment demands and develop career opportunities.

“These graduates now have a portfolio of different certified skills. Starting salary ranges from $40k-60k a year,” said Christian Wells, director of the USF Center for Brownfields Research & Redevelopment and professor of anthropology. “They will have tangible, life-changing outcomes.”

The newly Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-certified graduates learned about construction, plumbing and electrical concepts through hands-on workshops. Participants of the program earned ten certifications including lead abatement, asbestos removal, mold remediation and green energy training. These certifications are required throughout construction and demolition in order to ensure industry safety protocols and proper removal of hazardous waste materials. Potential employers were consulted when building the curriculum and were also invited to meet with the participants.

Classroom of participants in the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program

“They basically walk you to employment, which is awesome,” said Ariana Stewart, one of the course graduates.

Stewart learned about the program online after losing her job as a Starbuck’s supervisor a few months ago. Her goal is to become a field safety officer and expects to nearly double her previous salary.

“It's a step up,” said Jason Mayers, another program participant. “It’s a position of responsibility to make sure everyone is safe.”

Mayers had been preparing to switch from working in construction into overseeing workplace safety but was slowly working through the cost of each certification before learning about the program. On average, each certification costs about $500, however this program is free to participants.

“I’m grateful for the training to take our career to the next level,” he said.

Five of the 15 course participants already have new jobs. They’ll also receive support over the next year with transportation and childcare to help ensure their success.

The program is currently enrolling 15 new participants for a course in July and another in October. Each session will run for five weeks.

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