Earth Conservancy, teaming with community partner Penn State Wilkes-Barre, is utilizing a newly trained workforce to help revitalize land in our region, realizing the worth in effort needed to change for the better
By: Rachel Olszewski
A grant for $200,000 can go a long way, and when Earth Conservancy (EC) received such a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, EC utilized the opportunity to further its ultimate goal; Reclamation, restoration, and redevelopment of mine-scarred sites and impacted watersheds as well as contributions to the economic and environmental revitalization of the Wyoming Valley.
The result is the Environmental Workforce Training Program. Designed by a team at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, the program is meant to teach participants how to address ongoing environmental and economic problems associated with the anthracite mines that were once ubiquitous in our area. At the same time, the program provides hands-on skills to workers to prepare them for the job market.
The curriculum, with a focus on surveying, emphasizes a variety of knowledge, skills, and technologies needed to succeed as an engineering technician. Construction, remediation, environmental cleanup, and many other careers are possible as well.
There are eight courses packed into the four-month program: Introduction to Brownfields, OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER Training, AutoCAD (Level I), Surveying Field Assistant, Basic Land Surveying Techniques, GIS for Resource Conservation, OSHA 10-Hour Safety Training, and First Aid/CPR/AED. Altogether it provides 205 contact hours and 20.5 hours of continuing education credits from Penn State University.
In order to earn the hours and receive the three federally-recognized certifications, participants must attend every class. Also, upon completion of the program, EC and its partners will assist graduates in finding job opportunities, as well as create or edit resumés and cover letters and write letters of recommendation.
Almost immediately after graduating from the program, Paul Crisafulli was hired at a job he loves.
“Earning the three certifications makes me more valuable from the start,” explains Crisafulli. “I’m valuable to any employer that requires them because they are time consuming and very expensive to obtain. The fact I have them will save thousands in company money and I can be put to work immediately rather than train someone without these certfications.”
He also attributes his success to the stellar resumé formed with the help from the program director Elizabeth Hughes and CareerLink's team.
In addition to teaching skills to better the environment and providing employment opportunities, another beneficial facet to the program is that unemployed or underemployed local residents, especially veterans, are given priority to participate.
For Crisafulli, this particular aspect helped him renew his confidence.
“I went from a person that didn't like my work history and had accepted that because I didn't know how or what to do about it, to mustering up the courage to apply for the program and give it my best. From that point until now, my life has changed. I realized that I'm smarter than I ever thought I was, I've met a group of people I know I will stay in touch with for years to come, I've found inside me the power to achieve great things and it has awoken a passion in me I didn't know I had. It helped me realize that I am worth the effort needed to change for the better.”
Training is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2019.