LEHMAN TWP. — Earth Conservancy’s Environmental Workforce Training program was an “eye-opening experience” for Shavertown resident Matthew Groshek.
Groshek was one of 21 students in the first class to earn certificates of completion and network with potential employers, April 16, at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
The Environmental Workforce Training program was designed to help unemployed and under-employed people gain skills to find employment in environmental careers, said Elizabeth Hughes, director of communications at Earth Conservancy.
Groshek, 25, had prior experience in civil engineering but was working in factories.
“I’m from Columbia County and did not know about the damage from (coal) mining,” Groshek said. “This (program) was the perfect opportunity to learn about cleaning up water (flowing from the mines).”
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,” she said, adding she hopes to secure funding to continue the program.
The agency teamed up with Penn State Wilkes-Barre to create a program that required 205 hours of instruction over two and a half months.
Student recruitment started in October 2017 via unemployment agencies and CareerLinks from 12 surrounding counties, Hughes said.
Classes began in February and ended on April 14.
The following courses were included:
• 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
“It was a refresher course,” Groshek said. “I would recommend the program.”
Don Ewing, 51, of Tobyhanna, agreed with Groshek and said the class’s first field trip to see water flow coming out of mine left a lasting impression on him.
“You could see the copper colored water flowing out of the mines,” Ewing said, adding Hughes guided the trip and explained how holding tanks remove minerals before the water entered streams.
“I want to do something to make a positive impact,” Ewing said. “We can’t strip our resources and leave the problem to the next generation.”
Shawnese Taylor, 30, of Kingston, was eager to make a career change from health care to environmental. She was armed with resumes to hand out to potential employers at the career fair that followed the graduation ceremony.
Four employers, including Barry Isett and Associates, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Pennoni and Midlantic Engineering were ready to discuss possible internships and employment opportunities.
“I would like to find a job that would allow me to continue learning,” Taylor said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.