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Training program gives students boost toward 'green' careers

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Alesia Miller won't start college until fall, but she's already getting a jump on her career.

She's also getting $5,000 worth of college credits and OSHA-approved training for free through a five-week job training program run by the Heritage Community Initiative, a Braddock-based nonprofit.

"It's something I believe will put me ahead in the work force," said Miller, 18, who plans to attend Chatham University. "I'm undecided, so it's something I'm willing to try out."

She is one of 10 students enrolled in the Mon Valley Environmental Innovative Training program, designed to help students ages 18 to 24 get "green jobs" or earn a college degree in an environmental discipline.

Another 10 students are scheduled to begin their studies today. Miller's group finishes on Friday.

The students earn two OSHA certifications, one in hazardous waste operations and emergency response standards and the other in construction safety, plus three credits from the Community College of Allegheny County if they pass a biology course on sustainability.

A $200,000 grant through the federal Environmental Protection Agency pays for the program. The goal is to train young people to work in land cleanup, emergency preparedness response and management of hazardous substances and waste.

Jobs in those fields should grow substantially during the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment of hazardous materials removal workers is expected to grow by 15 percent through 2018, according to the bureau. Growth in the emergency management field is estimated to be about 20 percent in that time period.

The median pay in those fields is $17 to $24 per hour.

"It's a great opportunity to reach an age range of people that we haven't been able to hit head-on," said Jamie Shairrick, instruction coordinator for Heritage, which provides career services and job transportation services.

"There are a couple of people who were set and know what they want to do. But for the others, we hope to coach them and get them to good careers."

During the program, students learned how to use equipment to monitor soil, water and radiation levels. They also visit the Allegheny County Fire Training Academy for training in working with hazardous materials.

Tyler LaRue said he signed up because of the opportunity to get OSHA's 40-hour certification in hazardous waste operations, which otherwise costs about $1,000.

"I want to see what kind of field work I can get and that will hopefully lead to a hazmat job," said LaRue, 20, of Dravosburg.

As part of the grant, Heritage will track the graduates for one year, supporting them in their job search or college education when possible.

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