St. Louis environmental job training program gets financial boost from feds | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis environmental job training program gets financial boost from feds

May 22, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding St. Louis Community College just over $190 thousand to continue its environmental job training program.

This is the fifth time that the college has received an EPA grant since 2000.

Program graduate Michael Harris shows off the folder with his 19 certificates. He hopes to have his own environmental remediation business some day.
Credit Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Remediation Job Training program is a collaboration between St. Louis Community College and Saint Louis University. The community college recruits and selects the participants and helps connect graduates with potential employers; SLU provides the classroom facilities and conducts the training.

Students graduate from the six-week program with 19 certifications in environmental remediation, ranging from lead and asbestos abatement to environmental sampling and monitoring.

Rene Dulle manages the program for STLCC. She says demand for workers varies seasonally.

“By concentrating the training in the colder months, that prepares students for when that job demand is higher in the spring and summer," Dulle said. "And that gives them the opportunity to get that experience. That’s so, so important.”

Dulle said although the program aims to get graduates working on local clean-ups, like the one going on at the Carter Carburetor Superfund site in north St. Louis, workers with environmental remediation skills are needed nationwide. She said demand is the highest during an emergency, like the current avian flu outbreak in the Midwest or the oil spill in California.

In all, the St. Louis program has trained more than 300 students with about a 75-percent job-placement rate.

Program graduate Prince Farris-Settles waits for the ceremony to begin. His girlfriend Margaret Engelke and their five-month-old daughter Loveleena came to cheer him on.
Credit Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty-nine-year-old Prince Farris-Settles said before he started the training, he had been doing construction and warehouse work. “It was kind of more like dead end jobs," Farris-Settles said. "I wasn’t seeing any benefits or anything like that, so I was looking for an opportunity."

Farris-Settles said along with providing job training, the program also made him aware of health hazards in his own community, like lead paint inside homes.

St. Louis Community College will offer its next environmental remediation job training in January, 2016.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience