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A Pittsburgh program that trains people for “green” jobs has received a nearly $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The non-profit Landforce, based in Homewood, is among 18 programs nationwide to receive a total of $3.3 million in workforce development grants from EPA. 

The initiative is meant “to offer residents of communities historically affected by environmental pollution, economic disinvestment and brownfields an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities,” said Carlton Waterhouse, deputy administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management during a press conference.

A brownfield is a contaminated property that needs remediation before it can be reused.

Landforce coaches people interested in gaining the skills to do remediation work in Allegheny County.  “We train and hire people who have been systematically marginalized, returning citizens, those suffering with substance abuse, mental health challenges, and lack of opportunities,” said executive director Ilyssa Manspeizer.

After seven weeks of paid training, Landforce participants work for five or six months on projects across Allegheny County, like invasive plant management, trail maintenance, and green infrastructure.

92% of the participants who complete their season with us move immediately into other jobs, and one year later, 91% of those responding are still employed.

They have been working on brownfield redevelopment at Hazelwood Green, and other locations, according to Manspeizer. 

After gaining environmental competencies, and learning “softer” skills needed for workforce success, she said participants get intensive career coaching to support their transition to employment.

“They do transition — 92% of the participants who complete their season with us move immediately into other jobs, and one year later, 91% of those responding are still employed,” she said.

The EPA grant is expected to support Landforce in the training and development of 38 people.

Started in 1998, these workforce grants have funded 335 programs and trained 18,541 unemployed, or under-employed people to work in the environmental field, according to Waterhouse. 

Also in Pennsylvania in this round of funding, the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia received a similar workforce development grant.