LEHMAN TWP. — Shawnese Taylor was armed with ambition and resumes after earning a certificate from Earth Conservancy’s Environmental Workforce Training program at Penn State Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
The program is designed to help unemployed and under-employed people gain skills to find employment in environmental careers, said Elizabeth Hughes, the director of communications at Earth Conservancy. Students invested 205 hours over two and a half months learning about mine land reclamation and other local environmental issues, Hughes said.
“The program surpassed my expectations,” Taylor, 30, of Kingston said. “I would like to find a job that would allow me to continue learning.”
Taylor was one of 21 students who were the first graduates of the Environmental Workforce Training program and received certificates.
The students began networking with five employers, which included Barry Isett and Associates, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Pennoni and Midlantic Engineering at a career fair following the ceremony.
The Environmental Workforce Training program is funded by a $200,000 grant the Earth Conservancy of Wilkes-Barre received from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection in 2017, Hughes said.
“The grant will fund the course for two years,” Hughes said, adding she hopes to secure funding to continue the program.
The agency teamed up with Penn State Wilkes-Barre in Lehman Township to create a program that included the following courses:
• Introduction to Brownfields
• OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER Training
• AutoCAD, Level I
• Surveying Field Assistant
• Basic Land Surveying Techniques
• GIS for Resource Conservation
• OSHA 10-Hour Safety Training
• First Aid/CPR/AED
In October, Earth Conservancy began recruiting students by reaching out to unemployment agencies and CareerLink’s 12 counties in Northeast Pennsylvania to spread the word, Hughes said.
Steven White, 34, of Carbondale, learned about the course after seeing a flyer at the Scranton CareerLink.
“I was there to take a Civil Service test,” White said.
The Environmental Workforce Training gained a lot of interest, according to Hughes.
“We held 50 interviews of people wanting to take the course,” Hughes said. “Twenty-five were selected, and 21 completed the course.”
Classes started in February and ended Saturday, April 14, Hughes said.
Students White, Taylor, Don Ewing and Regina Dougherty all gave the Environmental Workforce Training program their approval.
Ewing, 51 of Tobyhanna, said the first field trip to see water flow coming out of mine left a lasting impression on him.
“It was worth the trip,” Ewing, said. “You could see the copper colored water flowing out of the mines.”
Hughes explained to the class about the holding tanks installed that removed the minerals before the water entered streams, Ewing said.
“I want to do something to make a positive impact,” he said. ” We can’t strip our resources and leave the problem to the next generation.”