Home Climate justice Environmental Factor – July 2022: NIEHS Program Recognized for Job Creation and Environmental Justice

Environmental Factor – July 2022: NIEHS Program Recognized for Job Creation and Environmental Justice


In June, the White House selected the NIEHS Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) to participate in the new Justice40 Initiativea bold effort to promote economic opportunity in underserved communities while advancing environmental justice.

ECWTP interns in Chicago learn how to install solar panels. (Photo courtesy of OAI, Inc.)

Initiative aims to provide 40% of proceeds from federal investments in climate change, clean energy, clean transportation, affordable housing, water infrastructure, workforce development and neighborhood clean-up disadvantaged.

ECWTP is well placed to contribute immediately to this effort.

For nearly three decades, the program has helped unemployed, underemployed, homeless, or formerly incarcerated people find good jobs and become productive members of society. They get careers in environmental cleanup, construction, hazardous waste disposal, and emergency response.

To date, more than 13,500 people have been trained by ECWTP grant recipients, which include community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and apprenticeship programs, among others. The program maintained a high placement rate of 70%. The ECWTP is funded by appropriations from the Department of the Interior, Environment and related agencies for NIEHS Superfund-related activities.

Strengthening Families, Adding Economic Value

“I am proud that ECWTP has been selected to participate in the new Justice40 initiative,” said Sharon Beard, director of the NIEHS worker training program, which helped launch ECWTP in the 1990s.

“Over the past 27 years, our grantees have done incredible work providing hands-on worker training and career opportunities in underserved areas,” she said. “These efforts give individuals the skills they need to create better lives for themselves and their families, and it strengthens the communities where participants live and work.”

Sharon's Beard “ECWTP has truly transformed communities for the better by providing in-depth job training,” said Beard, featured here at a 2014 NIEHS Worker Training Program meeting. “It has improved the lives of trainees and their families.”

A 2015 economic impact report showed that between 1995 and 2013, ECWTP generated $1.79 billion in value for communities across the country, or about $100 million each year. Given that the program received $3.5 million in federal funding each year, this kind of return on investment is a significant achievement.

Beyond these economic benefits, there are stories of inspiration.

“I’m a Mason,” said an ECWTP graduate who joined the program as a single mother. “I make a difference. Without the training at ECWTP and the efforts of all the training coordinators, I would not be where I always wanted to be today. I don’t have a job, I rather have a career. I can say that I am certified and experienced to go on a job site and do what I was trained to do. I know the security risks. Chemicals, slips, trips, falls, confined spaces, oxygen levels, air hazards, how to lay the perfect brick, and how to behave as a tradeswoman.

Learn more about the program and the many underserved communities that have benefited from it by reading this fact sheet.