Stormwater runoff is one of the only growing sources of water pollution in the U.S. and the regulations to curtail it have grown exponentially in the past few decades. The results of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2008 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey illustrate this growing need and estimate the costs to control polluted runoff over the next 20 years at $42.3 billion. In some regions, such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there is enormous demand to install stormwater management practices to meet Clean Water Act requirements, but there is a lack of skilled workers who know how to construct, inspect and maintain them. This is in part due to the speed at which the demand for these practices is increasing, and in part due to the lack of standardized guidance for training programs focused on this topic.
At the same time, thousands are still struggling to find work. Many regions of the country have not yet fully recovered from increased unemployment caused by the recent recession. Research consistently shows that the least-skilled workers are most likely to be unemployed. In order to achieve family economic security, many low-income workers need to increase their skills and credentials.
The Center for Watershed Protection, working with our partners, proposes to address both of these needs by designing a Clean Water Certification and Workforce Development Program to increase the skilled stormwater workforce. With the help of local workforce development organizations and agencies, we can translate these training opportunities into actual jobs and/or new businesses for individuals in low-income communities. The goal of the Clean Water Certification and Workforce Development Program is to partner with local workforce development organizations and agencies to translate training opportunities into actual jobs and/or new businesses for individuals in low-income communities. This program is designed to address the need for standards in training on various clean water practices beginning with stormwater management practice construction, inspection, and maintenance. By establishing the infrastructure for a national committee on these practices, other topics of need such as illicit discharges, stormwater education and outreach, and industrial site inspection practices will be also be explored as future areas for certification.
The project is designed to be a two phase program. The first phase will include the formation of a national committee on certification to answer questions about what is being certified, the standards for certification and the curriculum, and to match up employers with future employees. The second phase will include working with pilot communities to deliver and disseminate professional and life skills to participants; match up these potential employees and business owners with employers and customers; and to develop an inaugural class of certified clean water professionals. The goal of this five year, two phase program is to develop a process for certification that allows for efficient, but maximum impact in growing and meeting the needs for clean water jobs. The program will utilize the strengths of private and public partners to provide professional, technical, and life skills to 60-120 individuals and match them with careers and employment opportunities in technical areas of need. The two phases of this project will run concurrently. Phase 1 of this project will require assembling the committee that will ultimately shape certification requirements into a national set of standards that spawn other communities to start similar initiatives in workforce development in other regions of the country. In Phase 2, the pilot communities will be the testing grounds for the national standards, help refine the standards themselves, and ensure a rich engagement of local public and private organizations that need positions filled. The phases and tasks for this initiative will include:
Major partners on this project include Civic Works, the Metropolitan Council of Governments, District Department of Energy and Environment, and Corps Network. As this project progresses, other partners will be identified that will help bolster their existing programs and lend special expertise toward this effort.