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In 2017, Earth Conservancy (EC) at Penn State Wilkes-Barre was awarded a $200,000 grant through the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program to implement a new job training program for local unemployed, underemployed residents and especially veterans in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton metro area. The main partners for this grant were Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Surveying Engineering program and the Office of Continuing Education.

The EWT Program provides a comprehensive and realistic curriculum to participants seeking to enter an environmentally-oriented career in the Wyoming Valley. The curriculum was designed by a team including Dr. Esra Tekdal Yilmaz and Dr. Frank Derby at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and implemented through the Office of Continuing Education. The entire program consists of 205 contact hours over the course of two and a half months.

The courses included: Introduction to Brownfields, OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER Training, AutoCAD, Level, Surveying Field Assistant, Basic Land Surveying Techniques, GIS for Resource Conservation, OSHA 10-Hour Safety Training and First Aid/CPR/AED.

Selection of participants was completed by the Earth Conservancy and CareerLinks. Upon graduation, participants gained skills and certifications that could lead to exciting careers in engineering, construction, remediation, environmental cleanup and more.

Graduates left the EWT Program with 20.5 hours of continuing education credits from the Pennsylvania State University, 3 Federal certifications (HAZWOPER 40, OSHA 10, First Aid), a professional résumé and cover letter, a letter of recommendation and job placement assistance.

“Training sessions started at 4:30 p.m., and the participants were so enthusiastic that daily attendance was 100 percent throughout the duration.Twenty-one participants started the program and twenty completed successfully,” said Yilmaz. “To prepare them for employment, the participants were assisted with resume writing and job search. Furthermore, their performances will be tracked for a period of one year.

“During the recruitment sessions in different CareerLink locations, we met with enthusiastic and highly motivated people who were ready to be discovered and educated. I believe this grant helped them to regain the power inside them to start a new career.”

Students were also exposed to Surveying Engineering basics which also encouraged them to start a two or four year degree at Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s surveying engineering program. At the end of the program a career fair was organized during which students were able to interact with prospective employers.

“Our team and I will be looking forward to meeting with new cohort of students for 2019 program. Recruiting for the next training class will begin in the fall of 2018, and the training is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2019,” Yilmaz said.

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