Training the Green Jobs Workforce

SFCC receives $200,00 EPA grant

Participants suited up for HAZWOPER training

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Santa Fe Community College a $200,000 grant to operate environmental job training programs. Funded through the agency’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program, SFCC will use the funds to prepare people for green jobs that reduce environmental contamination and provide more sustainable futures for the communities most affected by solid and hazardous waste contaminations.

The college will train approximately 70 unemployed people and place at least 51 graduates in environmental jobs. The training is provided at no cost.

The intensive program includes 164 hours of instruction over five weeks, and covers hazardous and solid waste management, health and safety, environmental site assessments and sampling, mold remediation, asbestos awareness, and emergency response.

SFCC will recruit Native Americans, veterans, and underserved youth in Santa Fe, Mora, Rio Arriba and Taos counties. The college has partnered with Coordinated Vision LLC, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Branch of the Association of General Contractors, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Fe YouthWorks, SER Jobs for Progress, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Northern Area Local Workforce Development Board, and the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council Office of Environmental and Technical Assistance.

The EPA published the report “Transforming Lives and Advancing Economic Opportunities,” which highlights the success of SFCC’s previous job training grant. Here are some excerpts from that report.

Readying a Skilled Local Workforce

EPA’s environmental job training program enabled the college to design a robust program and provide unemployed and underemployed New Mexicans with quality technical training and certifications that employers required but that were not readily available in northern New Mexico.

Environmental, Health and Safety Instructor, Janet Kerley

“Our training participants range in age from 19 to 60, and many of them have been seeking jobs for months, and in some cases years, and they lack confidence,” said Janet Kerley, SFCC’s Environmental, Health and Safety Instructor. “Graduates learn job skills and earn certifications that allow them to compete in a difficult job market and secure a wide range of public and private sector environmental jobs, including environmental health and safety.”

Employers who have hired program graduates applaud the college’s approach and the relevance of the training.

“Over the last several years, we have utilized and successfully placed several students from this program,” said Sean Pauly, from the environmental staffing agency Aerotek. “Every student from the program was offered the position they interviewed for and was brought on permanently with our client.”

From Unemployed to Overseer of the Environmental Health and Safety of 26 State Buildings

Thomas Gonzales was able to reboot his career after completing SFCC’s environmental job training program. He had owned and operated a construction company in Santa Fe that employed 150 workers, but the housing market crash forced him to close his business in 2008. Mostly unemployed for five years, Gonzales went to SFCC to study sustainable technologies, then heard about the college’s environmental job training program.

Gonzales graduated from the program in 2012. A few months later he accepted a job with the Facilities Management Division of New Mexico’s General Services Department. He was hired as the facilities operations supervisor—a new position created by the state to develop a hazardous waste and indoor air quality program and oversee the environmental health and safety for 26 state buildings on four campuses.

“The variety of training and certifications provided under the college’s environmental job training grant prepared me to develop the first comprehensive environmental health and safety manual for the Facilities Management Division,” says Gonzales. The manual covers safety and environmental standards required by OSHA and a testing program for radon, mold and lead in state-owned buildings.

Within a year, Gonzales was promoted to facilities operations manager and now earns about $30 per hour. He continues to oversee dozens of state-owned buildings.

Prospective employers and community and tribal leaders are encouraged to contact Janet Kerley at To apply, contact Kerley or call 505-800-8765.

Core Training

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER)
  • Federal, State and Tribal Environmental Laws
  • Environmental Site Assessment
  • Superfund Site Cleanup and Innovative and Alternative Treatment Technologies
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency National Incident Command System 700- and 800-Level Global Positioning System
  • First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Supplemental Training

  • HAZWOPER Supervisor
  • Environmental Site Investigation Methods
  • New Mexico Water Regulations
  • Leaking Underground Storage Tank Removal
  • Solid Waste Management

Graduates Trained: 76 since 2011

Graduates Employed: 54

Starting Hourly Wage: $16.40

The publication Medium recently featured SFCC in the article, “Let’s Lead on Climate: Higher Education Success Story, Santa Fe Community College.” The story highlights the achievements that led to SFCC receiving the 2017 Climate Leadership Award, noting the college’s commitment to addressing climate change as an invaluable component of Santa Fe’s 25-year Sustainability Plan and that SFCC promotes sustainable technologies as a driver of economic growth, new jobs, and as a way to reduce its carbon footprint. And, it quotes SFCC President Randy Grissom, “Our goal is to reach 100 percent renewable energy and to have 60 percent fresh food and fish production for use on the campus.” The award program was created to identify American higher education institutions taking the lead on climate change communication and engagement. Solution Generation, a program of ecoAmerica, partnered with the American Association of Community Colleges to deliver the award to SFCC.

“SFCC works with industry partners to ensure that the curriculum reflects the knowledge and training students need and those employers are looking for. This collaborative effort has had tremendous success.”

— Ben Ray Luján U.S. Representative, New Mexico