EPA allocates over $20 million to support water utility worker training

(UI) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of over $20 million in grant funding to support training for workers who protect and treat our nation’s drinking water and provide critical water services. Through the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant program, the EPA will support training and career opportunities in the water sector.

Frontline workers at water utilities across the country are central to public health, environmental, and economic well-being in all communities, big and small. The water industry is facing wide-spread shortages of qualified workers due to expected retirements, needed investments in the nation’s infrastructure, and new technical and scientific skill sets required to operate and maintain these systems. Current estimates indicate that as many as one third of water workers will be eligible to retire within the next 5-10 years.

The focus of the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant program is to build a strong pool of skilled and diverse workers in the water utilities sector. This grant program supports collaboration among federal, state, and local governments and institutions of higher education, apprentice programs, labor organizations, high schools, and other community-based organizations to provide access to workforce opportunities and build career pipelines in the water sector. There are six program areas:

  • Targeted internships apprenticeships for skilled water utility trades.
  • Education programs designed for elementary, secondary, and higher education students.
  • Regional industry and workforce development collaborations to hire qualified candidates.
  • Leadership development, occupational training, mentoring, or cross-training programs that support career advancement.
  • Education and training programs designed for decentralized (septic) water workers to support public health for communities that rely on private wells for drinking water or septic systems.
  • Training and development for workforce development programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants to benefit disadvantaged communities.

“Our Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant Program supports local programs that help people get the training they need to enter the water workforce or the necessary upskilling to advance in their careers,” said EPA Administrator for Water Radhika Fox.

The Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant was established through the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, passed by Congress in 2018. Eligible applicants for this competitive agreement under Project Areas one through five are nonprofit professional or service organizations, nonprofit labor organizations, nonprofit community colleges, institutions of higher education, other nonprofit training and educational institutions, and public works departments. Project Area six eligible applicants are community-based organizations (CBOs) and CBOs who partner with an Indian tribe, a local government or an institution of higher education.


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