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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Awards $200,000 Grant to Chicago’s OAI, Inc. to Train Local Students for Environmental Jobs

Grant part of $5.1 Million awarded nationwide

Contact Information: 
Francisco Arcaute (

For Immediate Release No. 19-OPA84

CHICAGO (October 24, 2019) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $200,000 to Chicago, Illinois -based OAI, Inc., a workforce development agency that focuses on underserved populations. OAI will use the funds to train at least 45 students and place at least 40 of the graduates in environmental jobs. OAI is one of the 26 organizations to receive a total of $5.1 million in grants for environmental job training programs across the country.

“EPA’s Job Training Program has helped to transform communities that need it the most. By investing in a local workforce to conduct environmental cleanup activities, we can help revitalize traditionally low-income neighborhoods,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Seventy five percent of those trained under our program have gone on to find full time jobs with good wages. I am proud to announce that EPA is building on these successes by providing additional grants to help lift communities out of poverty, employ returning veterans, and build a skilled environmental workforce for the future.”

“OAI, Inc. will provide residents with valuable skills they can use to pursue a promising new career path,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “Rather than seeing local jobs filled by contractors from distant cities, EPA’s job-training grants give residents an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work.”

“This funding will enable OAI and our partners at the City of Chicago to provide 60 students with training that leads to safe, meaningful employment in brownfields remediation/redevelopment, ecological restoration and related green industries through the Greencorps Chicago program,” said Mollie Dowling, Executive Director, OAI, Inc. “We are thrilled to partner with EPA Region V to assist individuals from environmental justice communities disproportionately impacted by poverty, violence and disinvestment to have access to safety awareness and knowledge useful in the workplace, at home, and in the community.”

Based in Chicago, Illinois, OAI, Inc., is a workforce development agency that focuses on underserved populations. Participating students will receive approximately 1,158 hours of training in hazardous waste operations, emergency response and related environmental job skills. Training program graduates will earn eight certifications and/or licenses.

EPA’s successful Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program helps to create a skilled workforce in communities where EPA brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.

Of the programs selected for funding this year, 31% plan to serve residents of communities experiencing persistent poverty and nearly 70% plan to serve veterans. All 26 selected programs plan to serve communities with census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones – an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.

Since this program began in 1998, more than 288 grants have been awarded. More than 18,000 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 13,679 individuals have been placed in full-time employment earning an average starting wage of over $14 an hour. EPA created its environmental job training program to offer residents of communities historically affected by environmental pollution, economic disinvestment, and brownfields an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities. 


EPA’s Job Training Program awards competitive grants to nonprofit organizations and other eligible entities to recruit, train, and place unemployed and underemployed individuals. Individuals completing these training programs have often overcome a variety of barriers to employment. Many are from low-income neighborhoods. The training programs also serves minorities, tribal members, transitioning veterans, displaced workers who have lost their jobs as a result of manufacturing plant closures, and other individuals who may face barriers to employment.

For more information on the job training grantees, including past grantees, please visit:

For more information on this, and other types of Brownfields grants, please visit: