The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is invested in creating work opportunities in remediation and abatement in their own communities. Remediation and abatement are the methods used when a substance or practice in the construction industry is harmful to the environment and community. Remediation is the concept of using special techniques to make sure workers stay safe when dealing with hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos. Abatement is the process of removing the environmental threat so the entire community stays safe.
Often times, the remediation work needing to be done in a community is conducted by out of state workers. Oregon Tradeswomen’s Training Director, Amy James Neel, emphasizes, “Bringing in workers from out of state is a problem because these are high-skill, high-paying jobs. When people come in from out of state to do the work, those workers take their skills and their money with them out of the community and out of the state when the job is done.” In response, the EPA developed the Brownfields Program in 1995 to provide funding for training marginalized communities to enable them to access these important, high-paying jobs.
Oregon Tradeswomen has received Brownfields Program funding for many years, introducing our pre-apprenticeship students to career opportunities in our community dealing with remediation, alternative energy, material reuse, and cleaning up the federally recognized pollution sites affecting the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
Oregon Tradeswomen’s Environmental Worker Training Track is a two-week optional training providing our students necessary skills and certifications to pursue competitive careers in the industry. Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship students are shown a broad spectrum of possible careers in environmental remediation, anything from spill response, biohazard cleanup, wind-turbine maintenance, asbestos removal, and weatherization, just to name a few. One of the most advantageous aspects of the Brownfields EPA Grant funding is that it allows Oregon Tradeswomen to assist students beyond the two week training track! We are able to support students who are truly dedicated to pursuing careers the EPA deems beneficial to the environment by helping interested students obtain certifications giving them a competitive edge in their job search. For example, if a student is interested in deconstruction, we can help them get an RRP Certification which shows that they know how to safely work around lead.
Oregon Tradeswomen’s program has adapted over the years we have implemented this training, as our curriculum is based specifically on community needs and the jobs opportunities connected to those needs. At the present time, the demand for green/energy efficient practices and solar PV installations in residential buildings are growing quickly. In response, Oregon Tradeswomen has partnered with Energy Trust of Oregon to integrate an “Introduction to Green Construction and Solar PV” segment for the two-week training track delivered by Earth Advantage. During this in-depth training, our students learn about the following high performance building best practices and career opportunities in the green building and renewable energy industries:
- Energy Efficiency
- Health & Indoor Air Quality
- Sustainable Materials
- Water Conservation
- Land Management
- Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
As an added incentive, Energy Trust provides scholarships to participate in a 6-month Sustainable Homes Professionals (SHP) accreditation training offered by Earth Advantage that takes place every fall in Portland. Funding for scholarships was provided by Energy Trust to support student scholarships for Oregon Tradeswomen, as part of its overall efforts to expand training for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the building industry. Discounts for Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WSB) certified firms for this accreditation training are also available and provided by Earth Advantage.
Oregon Tradeswomen graduate Chelsea Acker recently received the SHP scholarship and excelled in the course, which led her to join the team at Green Hammer, a design-build firm delivering eco-friendly homes, renovations, and communities. In a note to Earth Advantage, Chelsea said:
“I am writing to extend many thanks and extreme gratitude to Earth Advantage. I am one of the SHP Scholarship awardees from the current SHP class. I graduated from Oregon Tradeswomen this past summer and knew I wanted to start my career in carpentry working for a company that focused on high performance energy efficient and sustainable builds. The SHP class was recommended to me as a way to learn more about building science and meet others who are active in this field. Within a few months into the course, I found myself passionate about building science, and applying for jobs. I was hired full-time at Green Hammer just a few weeks ago and it is my dream job! I can’t believe I am getting to begin my career with such an amazing company that aligns so clearly with my ethics, values, and passion. I honestly DO NOT believe that I would have gotten the job if it weren’t for this SHP course, and there is no way as a woman entering the field with little to no experience that I would have been able to afford this course on my own. I am extremely grateful and humbled by this opportunity and wanted to extend many many thanks for believing in me and giving me this chance. This course made is possible for me to enter into the trades with a focus on high performance energy efficient homes/buildings.”
Oregon Tradeswomen is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with community partners in the green construction industry under the EPA’s grant. With this support, Oregon Tradeswomen is able to help our pre-apprenticeship graduates gain valuable skills to pursue a living wage career all while helping our local community. This funding also allows Oregon Tradeswomen to support our industry partners with exceptional, and appropriately certified employees who will go on to make the Earth a safer and more inhabitable place.