Three time's a charm, CCNY Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor secures coveted job training grant
By Steve Dwyer
Dogged determination paid off handsomely this spring for Angelo Lampousis and his team at The City College of New York (CCNY) in Manhattan.
The BCONE board member and Ph.D., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences lecturer at CCNY, was thrilled to learn that his department had been one of three New York City entities (among 18 applying organizations) to receive a coveted grant for environmental job training—handed out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Job training and workforce development are an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance economic opportunities and address environmental justice issues in underserved communities.
In addition to grants awarded to CCNY, grants were allotted to St. Nick’s Alliance of Brooklyn and The HOPE Program Inc. of Brooklyn and the Bronx. All three awardees received an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant (EWDJT) of or close to $200,000 for programs to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.
“We applied for this grant three times, and the fourth time we secured the funding,” says Lampousis, before departing for Athens, Greece in mid-June for a working vacation. “This [being denied grant] is typical as far as I know—you might fail but it provides time to improve your narrative and state your case. Mainly, you have to have resilience to keep trying. And we did improve our grant writing skills, honed them to make it more compelling—and we took advantage of review programs with folks in New York and other states who assist those who are seeking grants after failing.”
The grant money has a two-prong purpose: It assists non-CCNY-students who need to complete continuing education (CE) in order to find work within the engineering and environmental fields—and have chosen CCNY to complete the CE course work that might consist of a couple days of either training or re-training. Grant money benefits CCNY engineering and environmental students who are dedicated to establishing a career in brownfield remediation.
BCONE can have a role in the job training grant, because after the first two years of student class work, students must then progress to real-world job placement. That’s where BCONE and its public- and private-sector members enter the picture, says Lampousis. “BCONE will try to facilitate student job placement through member companies. I see BCONE’s contribution and role as significant during this third-year cycle,” says Lampousis.
If At First You Don’t Succeed….
EPA’s brownfields job training grant program enables organizations to transform the lives of New Yorkers by providing individuals the opportunity “to gain meaningful long-term employment and a livable wage in an environmental field,” said Walter Mugdan, acting EPA Regional Administrator. “These three grantees do critical work to bring good paying jobs to communities across New York City that also help make them safer and healthier places to live and work.”
Rather than filling local jobs with contractors from distant cities, the organizations offer residents of communities historically affected by pollution, economic disinvestment and contaminated brownfields properties an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities.
Lampousis and CCNY is intent on following this model. But, securing the grant has not been easy. Speaking about the grant scoring process, Lampousis says a criteria is established by EPA based on a 100-point scale, with several officials grading grant essays. “We once registered an 84 of 100, but was not enough [to be awarded the job training grant],” he says, adding the grant narratives must be compelling about the way the money will be directed to enhance the growth of local communities served.
Over time, several of the organization that have secured an EWDJT grant have stepped up to guide organization that fell short—providing input on how they can improve their process and garner the grant the next time, says Lampousis.
He referred to a “leverage process” that can help secure grants. In this context, resources can come from external partners. In the case of CCNY, Lampousis says one organization affiliated with the college issues commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). So, individuals taking a CE course can use it to secure a CDL—and in turn land jobs in the transportation area of brownfield remediation.
Indeed, Lampousis says that there are a lot of people who rely on CE training without going for a college degree, and the CCNY job training grant allows local, non-student residents to approach CCNY to complete CE courses quickly.
“South Bronx residents will be able to get the CE credits now and then start working. The local income will go up. Plus, people don’t have to pay for the CE courses, which is typically not free [elsewhere]. It can cost $800 if they do it on their own. We can offer far more CE courses—and do it for those who only need perhaps one or two days of training to move forward with their environmental or engineering job pursuit,” he says.
The EPA job training grant will also help Lampousis in his effort to deliver and enhance his geosciences and engineering course, which consists of 14-week semesters—all done to prepare students to enter the workforce in these two fields, preferably as brownfield practitioners.
After having to offer the courses, “Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments,” in a remote environment due to COVID-19, Lampousis is eager to return to a live classroom setting at CCNY this fall.
Debuting in 2011, the courses were provided a bump in 2020 with a host of professional guest lecturers—many of them Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast members. The BCONE members were eager to volunteer their time and provide students with a snapshot and real-world advice about what it takes to be a brownfield professional. The course is typically held on Saturdays (10 am to 12 30 pm).
“With BCONE’s participation, we can then integrate many brownfield professionals into the mix, which I find is vital because our course is squarely focused on professional growth,” says Lampousis.
The course encompasses the entire process of environmental due diligence related to commercial real estate transactions and site characterization that ultimately leads to remedial evaluation and mitigation required for redevelopment of former industrial properties impacted with typical brownfield contaminants.
“I am confident that this 2021-2024 EWDJT grant, the first of its kind for CCNY, will critically strengthen the continuing education component on campus and leave a lasting legacy on professional training for years to come. Overall, for CCNY with its record of being an upward mobility machine, the EWDJT grant will help propel ever more low-income residents of the South Bronx and beyond into the middle class, while at the same time addressing ongoing environmental justice concerns.”
EPA Job Training Grant Program Mark 23 Years
Since 1998, EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grant program has awarded more than 335 grants. With these grants, 18,541 individuals have been trained and 13,751 have been placed in careers related to land remediation and environmental health and safety, with an average hourly wage of over $14.
CCNY’s three-year $200,000 grant is designed to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.
Working in conjunction with the Office of Continuing and Professional Studies on campus, CCNY’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences will run the EWDJT program for up to 60 participants from the South Bronx starting this fall.
Training will cover the first two years, with job placement the primary focus of the third year—and BCONE’s will have a role in furthering that cause. Graduates will earn certification in various environmental fields, including:
• Hazardous waste operations and emergency response;
• Environmental sampling and analysis; and
• Other environmental health and safety training.
Although it targets South Bronx residents, interested individuals from the five boroughs are welcome to apply for the program. Participants should be able to commit to attend the entire training. There is no age limit.